'These aren't risks I am willing to take': London and area schools will not reopen before the end of year
It's official, schools in Middlesex-London and the rest of the province will not be reopening for the remainder of the school year.
"I understand this is going to be difficult for many parents," said Premier Doug Ford during his announcement Wednesday.
The move does not come as a surprise after it was leaked Tuesday that the decision was made at the committee level to leave schools closed.
Ford said that modelling suggested that reopening schools may lead to thousands of new cases, despite calls from medical professionals including Ontario's top doctor to reopen classrooms.
"As your premier, these aren't risks I am willing to take," said Ford.
Ford made the announcement at 1 p.m. with Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliot.
"Our cautious approach will protect our reopening," said Lecce.
In response to the announcement Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca pointed out that Ford was ignoring the advice of his top doctor and other medical professionals.
"Doug Ford is putting patios before publicly funded schools," wrote Del Duca in a statement. "The experts have been clear - the government should be allowing each Public Health Unit and the local Chief Medical Officers of Health to make the decision whether or not to reopen schools for their own regions."
On Tuesday, CTV News Toronto reported that at committee level the decision was made to not reopen schools, even on a regional basis.
Both major boards in London had said they were ready to open when and if the province gives the go ahead, but now that won't be necessary.
In a statement, Thames Valley District School Board Director of Education Mark Fisher said, “We know that students thrive when they are learning in person at school and we look forward to welcoming all students back to our schools in September."
The board says more information about retrieving belongings from schools, returning board property and year-end recognitions will be shared as soon as it is available.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the Ontario Science Advisory Table advised the government to reopen in-person learning.
Locally London’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie has long maintained the position that schools should be last to close and first to open.
However, Ontario’s reopening plan isn’t expected to begin until June 14 at the earliest, despite a stay-at-home order expiring Wednesday.
All of Ontario’s schools have been closed since mid-April.
Ford called on schools to host outdoor graduation ceremonies where possible in order for some students to see friends before the end of the year.
It remains unclear if that will happen at the local boards.