Today the provincial government announced that all publicly funded elementary schools will open on a full-time basis starting September 8, 2020. Most secondary schools will reopen under an adapted model, including a staged class schedule. In-person school attendance will be optional for the 2020/2021 school year.
The government is immediately investing $309 million to hire 500 public health nurses to be placed in schools, 900 custodians, and to provide PPE and cleaning supplies for schools. All staff at the province’s 4,800 schools will be provided with medical masks.
Ontario’s Guide to Reopening Ontario’s Schools outlines the province’s implementation.
Parents will have the option of choosing online schooling at home if they are uncomfortable sending their children back to class. There is an expectation that educators who are unable to teach in person will provide instruction online.
Cloth masks will become mandatory for students in grades 4 to 12 in all shared areas, including hallways and classrooms, and when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. There is an exception for students with relevant health issues. Masks will be encouraged, but not mandatory for students in grade 3 and below.
The province is also investing another $10 million of net new funding for mental health and $15 million to increase students’ access to technology as remote learning will continue to be an option for the 2020/2021 school year.
The back to school plan for both elementary and secondary students will evolve based on the evolution of COVID-19 and the risk to communities across the province.
Elementary School Students
Ontario elementary students will see a relatively normal return to school, including regular class sizes and full day learning schedules that will be conducted five days per week. Elementary class sizes will not be reduced and no cohorting will take place during class time, recess and lunch.
Secondary School Students
Ontario secondary students will be required to attend class on alternating days. The province’s aim is to have students attend class in person at least 50 per cent of the time they normally would, and for students to be kept in the same 15-pupil cohort for as many of their different classes as timetables will allow. Secondary schools with lower risk will reopen with a normal, five day per week schedule, while some schools will be alternating between in-person and online learning. All decisions made regarding the re-opening of schools are adaptable to changing public health situations.
Ontario Childcare Update
Today, the government also announced its plan to allow licensed childcare centres across Ontario to open at full capacity with standard ratios and maximum group size requirements starting September 1, 2020. To date, the guidelines do not provide many details around child care transition, however if at any time the health and safety of the children is jeopardized, the government will take action immediately.
Long-Term Care – Response to Justice Gillese’s Recommendations
Today, Ontario released two reports and announced new initiatives that further respond to recommendations made by the Honourable Eileen E. Gillese, Commissioner of the Long-Term Care Homes Public Inquiry.
The Report Back on the Gillese Inquiry provides and update on accomplishments on four key areas recommended by Justice Gillese, which include increasing awareness, prevention, deterrence and detection of intentional harm in long-term care homes. The province is investing in a $10 million annual training fund to help frontline care staff acquire new skills, including the flexibility and resiliency needed to adapt to changing practices and the government says that, to date, 80 per cent of the recommendations are complete or underway.
Delivering on Justice Gillese’s recommendations, Ontario has entered into a three-year, $1.8 million partnership with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada to help long-term care homes strengthen medication safety practices. Ontario also plans to launch a Medication Safety Technology program next spring to help homes adopt new technologies to strengthen medication dispensing safety and consistency.