Publicly-funded schools in Waterloo Region, across province to close for two weeks after March Break
An empty classroom is seen in this undated file photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
KITCHENER -- The province has announced that all publicly-funded schools in Ontario will be closed for the two weeks after March Break in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government announced the news Thursday in a statement, saying that the decision was made based on advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
That means that schools in Waterloo Region will close on March 14 and won't reopen until April 6.
"We recognize the significant impact this decision will have on families, students, schools, as well as the broader community, but this precaution is necessary to keep people safe," a joint statement from Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, reads in part.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board released its own statement on Thursday afternoon.
"The government’s order for all publicly funded schools in Ontario to remain closed from March 14, 2020 to April 5, 2020 will remove a lot of student and staff uncertainty about COVID-19 and concern about implications for schools," it reads in part.
"We believe this action is in the best interests of the health of Ontarians."
Ontario currently has 59 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with five marked "resolved." More than 500 cases are still being investigated.
On Thursday evening, KidsAbility issued a news release that said it would be following the direction of the province and closing its school for the mandated period. The organizers of Kaleidoscope Kidsprogram have also suspended it until April 6.
Waterloo Region announced its second and third confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Those cases were found in two patients who had recently travelled: one on a cruise ship leaving Puerto Rico, and the other from Las Vegas.
Earlier this week, both the Waterloo Region District School Board and the Waterloo Region Catholic School Board had said that they weren't considering any measures around March Break travel for their students.
But Public Health had suggested that anyone travelling over March Break should monitor their symptoms and, if travelling to an affected area, should self-isolate for two weeks.
As for local post-secondary institutions, they're being cautious but, for the most part, it's business as usual.
Conestoga College announced Thursday that it would be staying open, with some restrictions.
The college says it is now a hand-shake-free environment, and is asking students who are ill to stay home.
A spokesperson for Wilfrid Laurier University says that they believe the directive applies to elementary and high schools only.
At the University of Guelph, all classes, events and activities are continuing, but a spokesperson there says the situation is evolving.
The University of Waterloo is not shuttering its doors, either, officials say.
This is a breaking news update. Check back for more updates…