Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce released their plan for the safe reopening of in-class instruction in school in September — six weeks before the start of the school year. The plan, unveiled Thursday, states that elementary students and most high school students will return to class full-time.
Elementary schools (kindergarten to Grade 8) will reopen with in-class instruction five days a week, full-days, and no change to class size. Enhanced health protocols will take place, and recess and lunch times will be staggered.
Secondary schools at lower risk will also reopen with a normal daily schedule, five days a week, but most secondary schools (including Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board) will start the year in an adapted model.
Parents will have the option to enrol their children in remote delivery, if they don’t feel safe with their children returning to school in September.
“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,” said Ford. “That’s why we’ve worked with our public health experts, Ontario Health and the medical experts at SickKids to develop a plan that ensures students can return to the classroom five days a week in a way that protects the health and safety of our children, teachers, and school staff.”
In terms of protection protocols, students from Grade 4 to 12, as well as school staff, will be required to wear masks, while students from kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged to wear masks in common areas.
Students or staff who develop COVID-19 symptoms will be separated from others. Those who test positive for the virus won’t be allowed to return to school until they receive the go-ahead by public health. Sports and clubs can continue as long as proper cleaning and physical distancing takes place.
Additionally, the government is providing over $300 million in:
- purchasing medical and cloth masks for students and staff, with direction to boards to ensure that students who cannot afford a mask are provided one
- teacher staffing to support supervision, keeping classes small and other safety related measures
- hiring up to 500 additional school-focused nurses in public health units to providing testing capacity to help keep schools safe
- hiring over 900 additional custodians and purchase cleaning supplies for schools
- cleaning school buses
- health and safety training for occasional teachers (who have, historically, not been covered by professional development offered to permanent teachers
- supporting special needs students in the classroom
- supporting student mental health
In a response letter, Carlene Jackson, the TDSB interim director of education, wrote that the ministry’s plans provide high level parameters for boards to follow, but in general do not provide details as to how school boards will meet all the provisions, conditions and expectations of the plans.
“The TDSB and other school boards are now going over the ministry announcement and related material and consulting with Toronto Public Health to develop operational plans. These plans will provide more detail on how, for example, schools and administrative centres will create and maintain health and safety measures and procedures that need to be in place when school resumes in September,” Jackson wrote.
“Early next week we will be providing the board with detailed information on health and safety measures, as well as teaching and learning plans for both elementary and secondary schools in a comprehensive return-to- school plan,” said Jackson in the letter.
According to the provincial government, the Ministry of Education will continue working closely with public health and school boards to monitor and report on the health status of school communities.
For updated information on the government’s plan, click here.