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Extending holiday break for students would be ‘sensible’ decision, Toronto’s mayor says

Mayor John Tory says the province and local school boards should seriously consider extending the holiday break for students to help keep COVID-19 out of the schools.

Speaking to CP24 on Friday morning, the mayor said delaying in-class learning after the holidays might be a “prudent” decision.

“I am not a scientist or doctor and that’s why they don’t call me for advice on this but to me, the notion of maybe keeping the schools closed for an extra week into January might be sensible just in the context of people unfortunately maybe having the family gatherings that they are being asked not to have and keeping those cases out of the schools,” Tory said.

The mayor added that if the holiday break were extended, the school year could potentially be pushed further into the summer.

“They could agree, all the teachers and everybody else, to teach for any extra week into July when one assumes we might have our hands on this thing through the vaccines and so on,” Tory said.

“The government makes that decision, the Ontario government, and the school boards. I just think that it’s something they should seriously look at and I’m sure they are.”

In Windsor, the region’s medical officer of health recently mandated all elementary and high school students switch to remote learning starting on Dec. 14 to help curb the spread of the virus.

Teachers and education workers at the Toronto District School Board have called on the province to halt in-person learning for the first two weeks of January and conduct asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in all schools across the city following the break.

Asymptomatic testing at one East York school last month detected more than two dozen infections, prompting Toronto Public Health to close the school for two weeks.

Thorncliffe, Park, Public, School

In an open letter sent to the province and the school board earlier this week, TDSB employees asked for all Toronto schools to be moved to online learning for at least the first two weeks after New Year’s Day.

“We want you to ensure that schools cannot contribute to a similar surge-effect on positive cases after the winter holidays,” the letter read.

“We are calling for these actions to protect the health of teachers, education workers, our students, their families, and the community at large, and to provide access to data on asymptomatic case transmission within schools.”

The province’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, has suggested that his government does not believe extending the holiday break is necessary at this time.

“Our government believes it is so important for our students to continue to go to school,” a spokesperson for Lecce’s office said in a statement released Wednesday.

“While all provinces contend with rising community-based transmission, the best medical experts have made clear that cases are overwhelmingly not being transmitted within our schools – the risk remains from our community.”

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