By: Laura Steiner, Reporter/Editor
Education Minister Stephen Lecce promised yesterday to release the plan for reopening the province’s schools today following closure due to COVID-19. And he delivered, announcing it at daily news conference with Premier Doug Ford.
The plan was developed with medical experts including Dr. David Williams, and staff at the Hospital for Sick Children, as well as the province’s COVID-19 Command Table. “It’s been hard on families to balance work and child care, 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, Ford said.
The plan will see Ontario’s elementary schools reopen with in-class instruction five days/ week on a normal schedule. Secondary schools in areas considered low-risk will also reopen on a normal schedule. “The plan reflects the best medical and scientific advice with a single aim: To keep your child safe,” Lecce said. Most high schools will be starting the year using the adaptive model. Some boards including the Halton board have rejected it. When pressed on why they were still going ahead with it, Ministry spokesperson Alexandra Adamo described it as “operational conditions to provide flexibility for boards based on their region’s COVID-19 situation,” in an email.
Masks are being recommended for students in grades 4-12. Parents will still have the option to decide not to send their kids to school, and opt for remote delivery. The province has made the following additional funding available for masks, cleaning, and staffing:
- $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
- A combined $110 million: $50 million for teacher staffing to support supervision, and $60 million for over 900 additional custodians.
- $50 million to hire up to 500 additional school-focused nurses in public health units to provide support to schools
- $23 million for additional testing capacity
“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,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said. A potential outbreak would be declared only if there was a positive case in more than one cohort in a school. The details on how to handle it, are still being worked out with the Ministry of Health, and the Solicitor-General. The first day of school is September 8, 2020.