The Ford government is considering the possibility of cancelling March Break for Ontario students amid concerns about new COVID-19 variants that are already circulating in the community.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce tells CP24 that he has sought advice from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams on whether it might make sense to keep schools open throughout the spring break and expects to have his recommendation by next week.

“The decision is going to be based exclusively on public health imperatives. At the end of the day, people should not be travelling, we are encouraging people to stay in this province and stay in their communities. We know about these new variants we do not want to bring more of them into our province,” Lecce said. “But our government is going to continue to listen to the science. We will communicate it well in advance of March Break.”

Schools were switched to remote-only following the holiday break as case counts surged but the Ford government has gradually been allowing students to return to classrooms in recent weeks as case counts have declined.

On Wednesday, Lecce confirmed that schools in an additional 13 public health units will reopen next week and that schools in Toronto, York and Peel regions will reopen on Feb. 16.

Schools had already been given the green light to open in northern Ontario and in 11 public health units in the southern part of the province.

“The downward trend we have seen over the last seven to 14 days in all regions, particularly the hot spots, demonstrates that the sacrifices and the protocols – the stay home order – are actually making a difference. Mobility is down, the data points relating to youth positivity rates are down and overall transmission is down from the peak of 3,000 to 4,000 (cases a day) as it was a few weeks ago. So, we have made a difference in Ontario and we are at the point we can safely reopen schools,” Lecce told CP24 on Thursday morning.

March Break in GTA school boards is currently scheduled for March 15-19.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation President Harvey Bischof said he had "seen no medical evidence" to suggest that cancelling March Break could slow coronavirus spread.

"We need to factor in what are the negatives in not having a break at this time. I think there's a lot of exhaustion amongst everybody involved in schooling at the moment and there would be real value in having a break."