This confusing decision doesn’t protect children; it puts them at risk.

This confusing decision doesnt protect children; it puts them at risk.
Randall Denley
Ontario Premier Doug Ford: An open then shut case of closing schools. Photo by Chris Young/The Canadian Press
Article content
Since the beginning of the pandemic, politicians and senior public health officials have assured Ontarians that all their decisions are based on science. Well, forget that. Its time for fear and irrationality.
The provincial governments decision Monday to keep schools closed for an indefinite period is a complete rejection of what we know about schools and their relative safety during the pandemic. Premier Doug Fords announcement reverses what he and Education Minister Stephen Lecce have been saying for months about the safety of schools. Did science change over the weekend?
Within the last week, Ontarians have been told that schools should be kept open by the co-chair of the provinces science advisory panel, by a coalition of childrens hospitals and other childrens health providers and by Lecce himself.  Last Thursday, he said, Nothing is more important than keeping Ontarios schools safe and open for students, staff and their families. On the weekend, he assured parents schools would reopen after the break.
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
Closing schools sets off a chain reaction that disrupts parents work, the economy, childrens learning and childrens mental health. Its a big move that lacks a big payback. The past 12 months have shown us that schools are not big transmitters of the COVID-19 virus and Lecce said Monday that 99 per cent of students and teachers did not have an active COVID case as of last Friday.
So schools are safe, but try to wrap your head around the reason Ford and his team offered for closing them. Theyre worried that kids will come back to school after the April break and bring the virus into the schools after a week of hanging out with their friends.
So if the break that started Monday hadnt taken place, schools would have remained safe but because government said take a break, now schools must be closed indefinitely for fear of what might happen when they reopen. To make it worse, Ford and his ministers said the government knew on either Friday or Saturday that theyd have to close schools.
Wouldnt it have made sense to cancel the April break, if it was going to shut down every school in the province? Not that making sense is an important criterion for this government.
The governments school closure doesnt protect children; it puts them at risk. Instead of returning children to relatively safe schools, the government will leave them at home, where it acknowledges more will become infected, just as they were over Christmas.
Mondays announcement is a major about-face for the Ford government, which has spent a lot of time talking about the $1.6 billion it spent to make schools safer and announced even more safety measures just last week.
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Article content
The politics of the situation are a bit complex. When local medical officers of health in Toronto, Peel and Wellington County decided to close schools on their own, the government was put in a difficult spot. Ottawa medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches had strongly hinted that shed do the same thing this week.
No doubt it was confusing for people to hear the provincial government say schools were safe while local health officials were closing them. At least now the provincial government and the medical officers of health are on the same page. Pity its the wrong page.
Some local public health officials took the province in the wrong direction when they got way outside their expertise and closed schools where there were no outbreaks. It was a foolish move that employs the same thoughtless, sweeping approach Ontarians have seen too often.
In its hurry to emulate the medical officers mistake, the Ford government offered parents no hope Monday. There is no plan for priority vaccination of all teachers to get schools reopened. There is not even any indication of what it would take to reopen them. All the government had to say about that is schools would reopen when it was safe. Your guess as to what that means is as good as the governments.
Randall Denley is an Ottawa political commentator, author and former Ontario PC candidate. Contact him at
Share this article in your social network
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Sign up to receive daily headline news from Ottawa Citizen, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.
By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300
We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again
Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notificationsyou will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.