Sources say the decision was made Monday not to reopen schools with concerns a return to the classroom could drive up case counts in some hot zones.
Ontario, Canada's most populous province, took schools back to online learning in April as the variant-driven third wave of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm hospital and healthcare systems.
Modelling released last week showed there could be a six to 11 per cent increase in daily COVID-19 cases if schools were to reopen.
The province's top doctor along with the vast majority of his regional counterparts and other experts have said students should return to classrooms for their well-being.
The decision follows Ford reaching out to public health units, health care experts, and education unions and organizations last week asking for advice on whether or not it is safe to reopen schools for the remainder of the academic year.
"It should be for all students because we know we must do as much as possible to get people outdoors to enjoy the summer, enjoy the nice weather", he said.
Some encouraging news on the province's fight against COVID-19.
Schools are expected to return to in-person learning in September for the 2021-22 school year.
Ford pointed to the risk of the emerging delta B.1.617 COVID-19 variant first detected in India, which is rapidly growing provincewide and could become the most dominant strain in Ontario.
Students, parents and families also have a number of mental health resources that are available to them through their school board as well as through other providers, including Kids Help Phone, which offers 24/7 counselling and referral services across the province, as well as resources through School Mental Health Ontario and services through child and youth mental health agencies across the province.
Outdoor recreation and outdoor gatherings of up to five people will still be allowed.
The decision to keep schools closed "was a hard choice to make, but I will not - and I repeat, I will not - take unnecessary risks with our children right now", Ford said, citing the increased danger posed by variants to younger people. "We want to be fully staffed and ready to go".
However, while a return to in-person learning is off the table for this year, schools will be permitted to organize outdoor social events for students, including graduation ceremonies, this summer.
"We are at a critical point in the pandemic's third wave. He didn't vaccinate teachers and education workers early enough or quickly enough".