YCDSB issues apology after incorrectly suggesting to parents that schools will close following April break

In this file photo, students play in the schoolyard at an elementary school Monday, October 5, 2020 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The York Catholic District School Board has issued an apology after it incorrectly suggested that schools could be forced to switch to remote-only instruction as part of a four-week provincewide shutdown.

Director of Education Robert Hofstatter issued a memo to parents on Wednesday night in which he said that it appeared that the Ministry of Education was set to announce a “four-week shutdown of schools across Ontario starting Tuesday, April 6, as part of a larger lockdown aimed at controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

But on Thursday morning officials with the ministry of education told CP24 that there are no plans to close schools at this time.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce also issued a statement in a bid to clear up confusion.

“Schools will remain open — critical for students’ mental health & learning,” he said. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health has said schools remain safe.”

Lecce has promised ‘elevated’ safety measures

There are currently 63 individual schools across the province that have temporarily switched to remote-only learning due to COVID-19 and hundreds of new school-related cases are reported each day.

However, ministry officials have insisted that schools are safe, regularly pointing out that roughly three-quarters of them have no active cases at all.

In a statement issued on Thursday morning, the YCDSB said that it is now under “every impression that students will continue in-class learning and apologized for “any confusion” caused by the earlier letter to parents.

But it remains somewhat unclear what could happen following the April break with Lecce promising that students will return to “elevated” infection control and prevention practices and a greater access to testing.

At least one northern Ontario school board has also indicated that it will take matters into its own hands and switch to remote-only instruction for the week of April 6-9.

“Schools really reflect the level of infection in the community and once infection takes off in the community the schools amplify it,” Ontario Science Table Co-Chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown told reporters on Thursday morning.

“It is a very, very hard trade off and we know that if schools stay open we will see more infection. But we also know the impact on children is really hard. If there is room for choices schools would be the last thing I would personally recommend closing and would be the first to open up again.”

There have been 13,278 school-related cases of COVID-19 reported since the start of the academic year in September.