Doug Ford promises announcement on whether schools will reopen 'in a day or two'

Premier Doug Ford says that his government will make an announcement on whether schools will reopen for a few weeks in June “in the next day or two.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and Ontario’s science advisory table have both endorsed a resumption of in-person classes on a region-by-region basis but Ford has been slow to make a decision, telling reporters last week that he wants “consensus” before allowing students to return to the classroom.

To that end, Ford wrote an open letter to dozens of medical experts and stakeholders on Thursday seeking their input on a potential reopening of schools by the following day.

Speaking with a pool camera at Queen’s Park on Monday, Ford said that his government is still reviewing that feedback but is getting closer to making a decision.

Williams had previously highlighted today’s date as an “opportune” time to reopen schools given the limited number of teaching days left in the academic year.

“We'll have an announcement in the next day or two and we'll get out there and make that announcement about going back to school or not,” Ford promised when asked whether he had any update for parents.

Schools have been closed for in-person learning since mid-April but with the province planning to enter the first phase of its reopening plan by June 14, there have been increasing calls to allow students to return to the classroom.

Ford, however, has expressed concerns about the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission associated with reopening schools. The science table has warned that a full reopening of schools would result in a six to 11 per cent rise in daily case counts but it has called that “manageable” given the benefits of allowing students to return to the classroom.

During Question Period at Queen’s Park on Monday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce seemed to express confidence that schools can operate safely but he refused to comment on whether they will be reopened prior to the end of the academic year, noting that his government “needs to take the time to get this right.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott also provided a cryptic response when speaking with reporters following Question Period.

“This is a very big decision because what we are considering is the health and safety of children and young people in Ontario, their teachers and other school officials,” she said “We need to take the time to get this right. The premier has been very clear about that since the beginning and that is why he is receiving the information that has been submitted to him and Dr. Williams, Minister Lecee and others are reviewing the information carefully so the right decision is made about when a return to school should be happening.”

So far local medical officers of health in Peel, Toronto and York have all publicly indicated that they would support reopening schools in their communities. Williams has said that only the Porcupine Health Unit in northern Ontario has ruled out a return to the classroom.