July 3, 2020

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Ontario schools to stay closed until May 31

Paramedics place a resident into an ambulance at Orchard Villa Care home in Pickering, Ont. on Sunday, April 26, 2020. More than half of the he's residents have tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Paramedics place a resident into an ambulance at Orchard Villa Care home in Pickering, Ont. on Sunday, April 26, 2020. More than half of the he's residents have tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO - Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said all publicly funded schools will remain closed until May 31, and added the closure could be extended if recommended by public health officials.

Lecce said the decision was made by medical experts to ensure that students and staff remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The commitment I can make to parents today is to ensure safety guides our decisions," Lecce said from the provincial legislature.

"We will never compromise the safety of your child, knowing how important it is to make sure that our youngsters, the most vulnerable in our country, remain safe."

Lecce said his government is looking at how to make sure students are protected when school eventually does return.

"We are building on a variety of scenarios to make sure safety remains paramount," said Lecce, who is hoping that schools could be opened by the fall term.

"To be quite frank we have to be open to all models, all ideas in the context of how schools are designed and the type of safety measure we put in place."

The announcement from the Ministry of Education comes as the province reported 437 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 new deaths related to the virus.

The rise in cases represented just a 3.1 per cent growth compared to Saturday — the lowest rate of growth in weeks.

The reported death toll is now at 835.

There are currently 252 patients in hospital and most of them are on ventilators.

As the province continues to educate students through their online learning program, Lecce said 20,000 iPads have been distributed to students whose families don't have the means to access the Internet.

Meanwhile, Lecce said private schools, First Nation schools and licensed child care centres are currently set to be closed until May 6.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2020.

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