June 19, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced Ontario’s plan for the safe resumption of classes for the 2020-21 school year. The plan outlines a number of scenarios which school boards have been asked to prepare for and retains choice for parents who may not feel comfortable sending their children back to the classroom.
Minister Lecce also announced today that the Ontario government is investing $736 million more in education for the 2020-21 school year.
Premier Ford and Minister Lecce were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott.
Ontario Releases Plan to Safely Reopen Schools
Ontario’s plan to safety reopen schools, announced this afternoon by Premier Ford and Minister Lecce, acknowledges that a blanket solution for reopening schools cannot be applied to all school boards across the province. Instead, the plan gives school boards guidelines and empowers them to make decisions based on local needs and the local COVID-19 reality.
The plan outlines the following three scenarios for September, each of which school boards have been asked to prepare for:
- Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols.
This scenario involves students going to school every day, in classes that are reflective of standard class size regulations.
- Modified school day routine.
This scenario involves an adapted model which allows 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 teachers for as much of the school day as possible. This model would require alternate day or alternate week delivery arrangements for a segment of the class.
- At home learning.
This scenario involves an extended school closure or situation where some parents choose not to send their child back to school. Schools boards should be prepared to offer remote education in anticipation of this possibility. 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.
Minister Lecce reiterated that school boards will be given the flexibility to adopt a model that works best for their schools, teachers, and students, and that ensures children can continue learning safely. School boards have been asked to submit their safety plans to the Ministry of Education by August 4, 2020. Boards will also be tasked with communicating their safety plan and guidance on health and safety protocols to parents and students prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year.
When asked whether there is a threshold of COVID-19 cases that a region must meet in order for school boards to resume a normal school day routine, Minister Lecce said that this decision would be driven by the advice of local public health officers.
Parents who do not feel comfortable having their children physically return to school in September will have a choice to pursue online remote learning.
In response to questions about protocols in the event a student or educator tests positive for COVID-19, Minister Lecce reassured Ontarians that screening measures will be in place to ensure that only essential people can enter schools. There will also be isolation protocols in the event that a student begins displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
The government also announced $4 million in new funding for cleaning, cleaning protocols, and financial support to hire additional custodial staff in September.
$736 Million Additional Funding for Education in 2020-21
Earlier today, the government announced an additional $736 million investment in public education for the 2020-21 school year, increasing the total to more than $25.5 billion. This is equivalent to an increase of $250 per pupil over the 2019-20 school year.
The funding is being delivered through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program. Under the GSN, a $213 million Supports for Students Fund (SSF) will support special education, mental health and well being, language instruction, Indigenous education, and STEM programming.
In addition to the GSN, Ontario is providing funding for the Priorities and Partnerships Fund (PPF), which enables school boards and third-parties to undertake important initiatives and provide resources for curricular, extra-curricular, and wrap-around supports.
Maintaining Alcohol Delivery by Restaurants and Cannabis Delivery by Private Retail
During media questions the Premier was asked about maintaining delivery for alcohol by restaurants and for cannabis by private retail. In response he indicated that all options are on the table. The Premier noted that discussions are underway with the Attorney General’s office, along with the Minister of Finance to determine next steps.