Doug Ford says he'll do all it takes to keep Ontario's school students safe. He promised residents that he "won't hesitate" to shut schools down if we were to experience a second wave of COVID-19 in Ontario. A resurgence of the pandemic in the fall is considered likely by many experts.
The announcement came during Ford's media address from Queen’s Park on Wednesday, August 5.
"I’ll make sure I do anything to keep our kids safe," said Ford. "And I mean anything."
This could involve shutting down schools for a second time in a year.
He added, "I won’t hesitate, if we have a second wave and [COVID-19] starts blowing up, to close the schools."
The province released its back-to-school plan on July 30. The framework has drawn criticism and concern from students, teachers, and parents alike.
The plan has key differences for elementary school and high school students.
Elementary students will attend school full time, with kids and teachers required to wear masks and implement social distancing. Face masks for the youngest students will still be optional.
Lockers, lunchtimes, and field trips will all see restrictions.
Lunchtimes will likely take place inside classrooms so that physical distancing can be maintained, and students will be asked to take their garbage home with them.
These plans were reportedly made in accordance with guidance from SickKids.
However, they don’t seem to follow the organization's suggested occupancy limit for class sizes.
As of now, students will be returning back to school come September 8, as long as everything goes according to plan pandemic-wise.
Ford has repeatedly stated that no one would be forced to send their kids back to school. The choice to enroll online will be available to wary parents.
"This is not a return to normal, but rather to a 'new normal' which will require everyone to modify their behaviour, stay informed, apply protective measures and follow public health advice and individual sport associations' recommendations, said Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, per CBC.