Public Health investigating after North York private schools remain open for religious services
Toronto Public Health (TPH) is investigating after they received complaints that at least two North York private schools appear to have remained open despite a provincial order forcing them to close while the schools say they are only offering religious services.
CityNews cameras captured crowds of kids wearing backpacks, students being loaded onto a yellow school bus and parents waiting to pick their kids up.
Residents who live in the North York, including a contractor from the area who wished to remain anonymous, contacted CityNews with concerns about public health and wondering why the schools were able to remain open.
“There was so much traffic, they even had somebody directing traffic so people can go in and out … the blinds are closed but if you get close enough, you can see through some kids sitting at desks doing work looking like they are at school,” he said.
When the schools were contacted to find out why they remained open, both schools said in-person learning had been suspended but they were offering “religious services” within accordance with provincial regulations.
CityNews has decided not to name the schools in question.
“Our building is capable of holding multiple gatherings at the same time in different rooms. Physical distancing is maintained at all times. We are fully respecting the rules and have been completely candid with Toronto Public Health about what we are doing,” read one of the school’s statement.
They also said a daycare is run out of the school which accounts for the traffic congestion seen in the area.
TPH says they have received complaints about unlawful school operations at these locations.
They added provincial COVID-19 regulations and a section 22 order have required all Toronto schools to transition to online learning as of April 7.
Schools in Toronto have been shut down since then due to rising COVID-19 cases in schools and multiple closures.
Provincial regulations posted on Toronto Public Health’s website also states capacity limits for religious gatherings are 10 people or fewer per service, rite or ceremony and it strongly encourages places of worship to take things online.
Toronto Public Health say they are not able to provide further comment due to the ongoing investigation, however did say they have strongly encouraged virtual religious services to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Toronto Public Health and the City more generally, ask that everyone, including educational institutions and places of worship, respect the goal of the province-wide Stay-at-Home Order and ensure that individuals remain in their residence at all times unless leaving is necessary for a permitted purpose,” read TPH’s statement.
TPH also added the wording of the provincial rule in respect to religious gatherings said the gathering limit for a religious service is no more than 10 person and the words “per room” or “per building” do not appear in the provision.