Today, July 30, the Ontario government unveiled its plan for safely reopening schools for in-class instruction beginning this September. Announced jointly by Premier Doug Ford; Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health; Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education; and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, the plan was developed in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the COVID-19 Command Table and paediatric experts. Highlights of the plan include:
- Elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) will reopen province wide, with in-class instruction five days a week.
- Secondary schools with lower risk will reopen with a normal daily schedule, five days a week.
- 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.
- Masks: Students from Grade 4-12 and school staff will be required to wear masks.
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. Parents and guardians still have until August 31, 2020 to apply for Support for Families. Under this program, parents or guardians of children between 0-12 years old, or up to 21 years old for children and youth with special needs, are eligible for a one-time payment, per child, to purchase educational materials to support learning at home.
Based on the best medical advice available, the province is implementing additional public health protocols to keep students and staff safe when they return to school in September. To support the implementation of these protocols, the government is providing over $300 million in targeted, immediate, and evidence-informed investments. This includes funding for:
- Procuring medical and cloth masks for students and staff, with direction to boards to ensure that students who cannot afford a mask are provided one.
- Teacher staffing to support supervision, keeping classes small and other safety related measures.
- 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.
- Providing testing capacity to help keep schools safe.
- Hiring more than 900 additional custodians, and purchasing cleaning supplies for schools.
- Cleaning school buses.
- Health and safety training for occasional teachers.
- Supporting special needs students in the classroom.
- Supporting student mental health.
These decisions are adaptable to changing public health situations and were based on the rigorous and data-informed guidance of leading medical, epidemiological, and paediatric leaders in the province.
“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,” said 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.”
The Ministry of Education will continue working closely with public health and school boards to monitor and report on the health status of school communities, which is part of the government’s outbreak management plan. This plan, which was developed with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Health, outlines clear protocols and authorities of the multiple agencies and organizations involved in the public health landscape. In the event of positive cases of COVID-19 among students, parents, teachers, or other staff, these protocols will enable immediate action by health and education sector officials to identify, track, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the education system. Every school board will have communication protocols in place to keep families informed.
Click HERE to read the full Guide to reopening Ontario’s schools
Yelich,I. and Adamo,A.(2020,July30) Ontario Releases Plan for Safe Reopening of Schools in September [media release]