Ontario has unveiled its plans for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Education Minister Stephen Lecce, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford outlined a series of three possibilities for school boards as they prepare for the next school year.
“Parents expect us to take every precaution to keep their children safe when they go back to school in September- and that’s exactly what we’re delivering,” Ford said. The recommendations were developed with the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the Hospital for Sick Children. “The risk posed by COVID-19 cannot be completely eliminated, however, there are significant steps that can be taken to mitigate risk and protect the health and well-being of students, staff and their families, President and CEO for the Hospital for Sick Children Dr. Ronald Cohon said.
The options are:
- Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols – Students going to school every day, in classes that reflect standard class size regulations.
- Modified school day routine – Based on public health advice, an adapted delivery model has been designed to allow for physical distancing and cohorts of students. Under this model, school boards are asked to maintain a limit of 15 students in a typical classroom at one time and adopt timetabling that would allow for students to remain in contact only with their classmates and a single teacher for as much of the school day as possible. This model would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.
- At home learning – Should the school closure be extended, or some parents choose not to send their child back to school, school boards need to be prepared to offer remote education. Remote education should be delivered online to the greatest extent possible, including the establishment of minimum expectations for students to have direct contact with their teacher at the same time on a regular basis, also known as synchronous learning. Synchronous learning can be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.
“I want to assure parents safety is our guiding principle and the right supports are being put in place to ensure our students are set-up for success,” Lecce said. The province is instructing school boards to prepare plans that include and adapted delivery model. This may include alternate day/ week attendance, staggered bell times at recess, and different transportation methods.
Ontario introduced online learning through their “Learn At Home web portal.” The made the decision to cancel the 2019-2020 school year in late May.