The Ontario government has announced reopening of schools for in-class instruction beginning in September.
Elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) will reopen provincewide, with in-class instruction five days a week. Secondary schools with lower risk will reopen with a normal daily schedule, five days a week, while most secondary schools will start the school year in an adapted model of part-time attendance with class cohorts of up to 15 students alternating between attending in-person and online.
Students from Grade 4 to 12 and school staff will be required to wear masks.
“It’s been hard on families to balance work and childcare, while kids have been separated from friends and other kids their own age. We want to get our kids back to school, but it has to be done safely,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“That’s why we’ve worked with our public health experts, Ontario Health and the medical experts at SickKids to develop a plan that ensures students can return to the classroom five days a week in a way that protects the health and safety of our children, teachers, and school staff.”
Parents will continue to have the option to enroll their children in remote delivery, which respects their fundamental role in making the final determination of whether they feel safe with their children returning to school.
To support the implementation of safety protocols, the government is providing more $300 million in targeted, immediate, and evidence-informed investments, including:
– $60 million in procurement of medical and cloth masks for students and staff, with direction to boards to ensure that students who cannot afford a mask are provided one;
– $30 million for teacher staffing to support supervision, keeping classes small and other safety related measures;
– $50 million to hire up to 500 additional school-focused nurses in public health units to provide rapid-response support to schools and boards in facilitating public health and preventative measures, including screening, testing, tracing and mitigation strategies;
– More than $23 million to provide testing capacity to help keep schools safe;
– $75 million in funding to hire over 900 additional custodians and purchase cleaning supplies for schools;
– $40 million to clean school buses, to ensure that students are in a thoroughly cleaned transportation environment;
– $10 million for health and safety training for occasional teachers, who have historically not been covered by professional development that is offered to permanent teachers;
– $10 million to support special needs students in the classroom; and
– $10 million to support student mental health.
“This plan reflects the best medical and scientific advice with a single aim: to keep your child safe,” added Minister Lecce.
“While this plan will continue to evolve to respond to the changing threat of COVID-19, we will remain constant and consistent in investing in the resources, staffing, and cleaning supports, and strict health and safety protocols to keep our communities and our classrooms safe.”
“Based on the current data, we are seeing that overall instances of COVID-19 are declining in Ontario. When considering the health of the whole child, and as long as this trend continues, we believe that with the appropriate measures and strategies in place to handle potential outbreaks and prevent spread, schools are expected to be a safe place for Ontario’s students and staff who attend in person,” added Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure the safety of students and staff and will be prepared to transition to alternative options should circumstances change.”