Ontario's stay-at-home order expired Wednesday but the Ford government says all COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place until the province enters Stage 1 of its reopening plan.
"The experts couldn't tell us that returning to in-class learning before teachers and students are vaccinated won't lead to an increase in thousands and thousands of new cases", Ford said during a press conference.
Ford said he is unwilling to take the risk of potential outbreaks of COVID-19 and its variants as a result of opening schools and is keeping all publically funded and private schools closed until September.
Ford sent a note to various health and education stakeholders last week asking for advice on whether it would be safe to reopen for in-person learning. It is unknown how many of these would be the new, more risky B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India, which has entered the province through Canada's borders.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people.
"The experts couldn't tell us that it wouldn't spread risky variants and keep us from moving to other stages".
"While this decision was not made lightly, it has been done with one aim: protect the summer for families and deliver a stable and safe September for students", said Lecce.
"Every student in Ontario, every teacher who wants a vaccine will receive two doses ahead of September", Lecce said.
Ford pointed to the risk of the emerging delta B.1.617 COVID-19 variant first detected in India, which is rapidly growing provincewide and could become the most dominant strain in Ontario.
"Children's mental, physical and emotional health is suffering". Following prioritization of education workers with a first dose this spring, the province also expects to reach all education workers with a second dose by the week of August 15, if not already eligible earlier by age cohort or other eligibility. It also suggested using the summer months to improve school buildings and vaccinate students. Ontario students deserve this positive conclusion to their academic journey, safely.
Emergency child care will continue until the end of June, aligning with the elementary school year.
Ford said he understands kids will be losing out on valued experiences, so he's asked all school boards to allow for outdoor graduation ceremonies for all grade levels, not just students in grades 8 and 12. Before and after school programs are closed and licensed child care centres may resume serving school-aged children for full-day programming in the summer.