WINDSOR, ONT. -- March Break is being postponed for students across Ontario, including in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent.

It will be postponed until the week of April 12.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement Thursday, with the health minister and the province's top doctor.

Lecce said it is an effort to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“We appreciate the hard work of students and staff in the education sector and I want to be clear: March break is being postponed, not cancelled,” said Lecce. “To keep schools open, we must keep them free of COVID-19.”

March Break was scheduled to run from March 15-19, but it will now be from April 12-16.

Windsor-Essex students switched to remote learning on Dec. 14, when the region’s medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed ordered classrooms closed a week before winter break.

Classes continued online from Jan. 4 until Feb. 8, when schools reopened in the region for in-person learning.

Ahmed said delaying March Break is more of a question of policy, rather than public health concern.

“With respect to the actual break, there are some risks, there are some benefits,” said Ahmed. “At this point, I don’t have any particular position on what to say, it’s mainly a policy decision.”

Teachers’ unions concerned over spring break changes

President of the Greater Essex Elementary Teachers Federation Mario Spagnuolo and Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association unit president Joe Brannagan have issues with the delay of spring break.

“The calendar has been set. It’s been set for over a year. Let’s stick with the calendar,” said Spagnolo. “I don’t think it resolves the systemic issue at hand and that’s how are we going to deal with COVID as a community?”

Spagnuolo said close to 80 per cent of ETFO teachers have reported high stress levels this school year.

“It’s having an impact on them,” he added. “I know teachers have reported some of their students their parents are telling them just to take a break for the day because of the increased screen time.”

The new break could cause a scheduling conflict, according Brannagan, who represents catholic secondary teachers in Windsor-Essex.

“It’s gonna be the final exams for two of our courses and they’re scheduled to go roughly 10 days or so after that break,” said Brannagan. ‘So it could be disruptive.”

Brannagan said teachers will await direction from the school board.

“To take a break from where it’s scheduled for both staff and students, I think is really missing the point,” he said.

Parent reaction

Joe Scalia is a concerned parent.

“The kids have had a reduced school year, so I wouldn’t be too happy about it but I guess I understand why it would happen,” said Scalia.

Another parent, Stephanie Bell, says she’s okay with it.

“I think that the weather will be better there’s a couple of positives,” says Bell. “Maybe we’ll be able to go on some adventures that we can’t do now in this lockdown.”

Opposing the change of March Break has garnered support online.

Parent Jennifer Grenier started an online petition, which has received over 23,000 signatures .

“To be able to disconnect for that week from our screens to build a fort, make crafts or colour, that’s what I think everybody wants to do,” says Gernier.

No change for college students

St. Clair College said March Break will not change for college students and will remain as March 15-19.