schools reopen ontario

Ontario releases plan for reopening schools in September

Class will be back in session for Ontario elementary and high school students this fall, though the experience will be markedly different from what we saw pre-pandemic.

The provincial government just released what it calls a "safety plan for the resumption of class for the 2020-21 school year," providing a number of different scenarios under which students, teachers and school staff might return to school after the summer break.

Based on where the province is at in the fight against COVID-19 this September, students will experience one of the following:

  • A "normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols" that sees students go to school every day in classes that reflect standard class size regulations.
  • A "modified school day routine" in which each classroom has a limit of 15 pupils and students attend classes on alternate days, rotating with another cohort of classmates every other day or week.
  • An "at-home learning" routine in which remote education would 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." 

It's up to each individual schoolboard to prepare a plan under each of these scenarios, and it's up to each parent to decide whether or not they want to participate.

Parents who don't feel comfortable sending their kids physically back to class in September can simply continue with online classes (though with more people heading back to work under Stage 2 of the reopening process, staying home to teach may prove difficult for some).

"We simply can't provide a blanket solution for the whole province," said Premier Doug Ford when announcing the plan with Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, on Friday afternoon.

"Instead, we need to provide school boards the tools and the guidelines to get the kids back in the classroom. School boards will be empowered to make decisions based on their local needs, challenges and priorities."

Developed in conjunction with — health experts on the COVID-19 Command Table, medical experts at The Hospital for Sick Children, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, education sector partners, frontline workers, parents and students — the plan is said to reflect "the best medical and scientific advice and recommendations available."

The government has furthermore announced another $4 million in net new funding specifically for cleaning, cleaning protocols, and financial support to hire additional custodial staff in September.

"School boards have been asked to prepare their own safety plans for the upcoming school year and submit them to the ministry by August 4, 2020," reads a release announcing the new guidelines today.

"School boards will also be required to communicate with parents and students prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year, outlining the safety plan, guidance on health and safety measures and protocols, and any other changes that will be implemented when schools open in September."

Both Lecce and Ford stressed during Friday's press conference that the health and safety of students will remain their top priority.

"We are taking every precaution, investing more, and listening to the best medical advice in the country to keep students, staff, and families safe," said Lecce of his ministry's plan.

"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. I am grateful to Ontario students, education staff, and communities for stepping up during this difficult period."

Lead photo by

Terry Alexander

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