ontario colleges and universities

Ontario releases plan for reopening colleges and universities

Thousands of Ontario post-secondary students were left in lurch this March when, with just months (if not weeks) to go until graduation, the province declared a state of emergency over COVID-19.

Like restaurants, bars, hair salons and most office buildings, colleges and universities have now been closed for nearly three months — a necessary sacrifice to slow down a deadly virus and save lives, for sure, but one that's been preventing many people from moving forward in their lives.

Fortunately for the estimated 800,000+ students enrolled in Ontario post-secondary schools, the province has a plan.

Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano announced on Wednesday that physical classes would soon be allowed to resume in Ontario for anyone who was scheduled graduate this year but couldn't due to the pandemic.

"The Ontario government has developed a plan for the gradual and safe resumption of in-person instruction at post-secondary institutions across the province for the summer term," reads a release announcing the government's plan.

"Starting in July 2020, limited in-person education and training may restart for students who were not able to graduate due to COVID-19 closures."

This limited summer reopening will prioritize in-person instruction for students in fields deemed by the province to be "essential" such as nurses and personal support workers, as well as those in "high labour market demand areas."

Examples of high labour market demand areas listed in a backgrounder document from the province include "welding, nursing, personal support worker, engineering and trucking."

While plans have already been laid out, the provincial government says it is now in the process of developing a more concrete framework on health and safety measures for academic institutions.

The framework will be released in the coming days, according to Romano, and Ontario will "closely monitor the limited summer session" to guide its next stage of reopening schools in the fall.

Virtual learning and and something called "micro-credentials" will be incorporated into the framework, the latter described as "short-term training provided for in-demand skills."

"A greater focus on micro-credentials will allow increased flexibility and responsiveness to student and employer needs," writes the province.

"Micro-credentials will allow Ontarians to upgrade their employment-related skills quickly and efficiently and remain competitive in the workforce, while at the same time accommodate the demands of work and family."

Regardless of what they come up with in terms of a framework, the Ontario government says that all post-secondary students will be able to attend school through virtual learning, in-class instruction, or hybrid formats this September.

"It's critical that we allow students to complete their studies and graduate so they can join the workforce in high-demand, frontline roles and help put the province back on the path to prosperity," said Romano in today's release.

"I will continue to collaborate with the post-secondary sector to determine how best to move forward on reopening our campuses in the fall and beyond in a way that is responsible and safe for our students and staff."

Lead photo by

Armin Farhang-pour

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