Today at Queen’s Park, the Ontario government released three plans for how schools will operate in September amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ontario’s publicly funded schools have been closed since March break, as struggles to contain the virus in the province continued.
With schools closed, institutions and their teachers set up temporary online learning solutions that became permanent once the government decided to keep the schools closed for the rest of the year.
Since then, the parents of these homebound students have been kept in the dark about whether their child will be returning to school this September.
At today’s news conference, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce provided the details to the three separate plans made for September.
Those three plans detail the following:
- Regular in-class instruction with updated health protocols in place.
- A continuation of the online learning strategy implemented at the beginning of the outbreak, with an improved teaching method put in place. This will allow parents to have the option to keep their children at home should they feel their safety would be compromised or if school closures are extended.
- A combination of the two plans, which would see students alternate their locations for learning (either at home online or in-person at school).
According to the province, the plans were made with the consultation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, along with COVID-19 health experts, medical experts from The Hospital for Sick Children, frontline workers, parents, and students.
When addressing the plans that would see students in school, Lecce said that class sizes would not exceed 15 students.
He also said that an important factor for the planning process would be the mental health of the students being unable to attend school in person.
“We know the value of human connection,” Lecce said.
“We know kids need to be in class. We’ve heard this loud and clear… the mental health impacts are clear on our kids”.
The plan that has kids returning to their schools will also be completely up to the parents, as returning is “voluntary and based on parent choice”.
“For parents who choose not to send their child back to school, school boards should be prepared to offer remote education. This requirement will be in place for as long as public health circumstances require adapted delivery of education.”
When it comes to students with high levels of special education, the plan says the school boards need to consider providing them with the option of attending school every day.
The plans that were announced may differ for some regions in the province, as some regions like Toronto and Peel remain in stage one of Ontario’s reopening process.
Ford is on record to say that a regional approach will also be needed for school re-openings and that the school boards should make decisions that are based on the local area’s needs.
“We simply can’t afford a blanket solution for the whole province,” Ford said.
Increased funding for schools promised
Along with the plans, the government also announced an increase to the annual per-student grant given to the school boards.
At the press conference, the Ford Government announced that it will be giving school boards $25.5 billion during the 2020-2021 school year, which was noted to be an increase of $765 million compared to the last school year period.
The per-student grant has now been increased to $12,525, which is equivalent to $250 per student and will increase over this upcoming academic year.
According to Lecce, every school board in the province will see their funding increase in areas like the school’s mental health services, special education, enhanced cleaning, and technology.
Additionally, the Ford government announced that it will be spending another $20 million on student transportation to account for the changes caused by the new COVID-19 alternate seating requirements.
It was also announced that the school operations budget will also be increased by $40 million specifically for cleaning purposes.
Ontario COVID-19 Stats
The province has reported 178 new cases of COVID-19, making it the sixth day in a row that case numbers have been below 200.
Confirmed cases: 33,095 (+178)
Recoveries: 28,250 (+246)
Deaths: 2,564 (+11)
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