Schools to remain open, 'protocols are working': Dr. Chris Mackie

As word spread of the provincial shutdown Thursday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a statement reassuring parents and students that schools will continue to be open for in-class instruction.

The April Break will also proceed as planned and new protocols will be introduced to ensure students and staff return to class safely following the break.

However, no details were released as to what these new protocols would be and as of yet, no new message has been sent to school boards.

“The message we have received from the Minister of Education and the deputy minister, is to continue to put the health and safety protocols in place,” says Thames Valley District School Board Education Director Mark Fisher.

“And until we hear otherwise, our schools will remain open.”

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie hasn’t received any direction on new protocols from the province either, but says what they are doing now is working.

“There’s really not spread in schools. What’s happening in schools now is safe. We believe the measures that are in place need to be continued,” says Mackie.

Still, Premier Doug Ford stressed that the emerging threat from variants of concern, especially among younger people may force the government to change their stance down the road.

“We will closely monitor the situation and not hesitate to act to protect our kids and your families,” says Ford.

Meanwhile, Fisher says the variants are presenting a challenge they have not dealt with thus far in the pandemic.

“That operationally and logistically presents some challenges to us, in terms of the levels of exposure, which may necessitate closing schools in the future.”

Students are expected to be back in class on April 6, with the spring break to run from April 10 to 18. Nothing should be considered written in stone, but the hope is students return on April 19.