Ontario Prepares for the Safe Reopening of Schools
Province Releases School Safety Plan for the 2020-21 School Year
June 22, 2020
Today, the Ontario government released its safety plan for the resumption of class for the 2020-21 school year, outlining scenarios for how students, teachers and staff can safely return to classrooms in September. The plan also provides choice to parents, enhanced online learning, and additional funding. While the decision to return to the normal school day routine will continue to be based on medical advice, boards and schools are being asked to plan for alternative scenarios that may need to be implemented in September depending on the province's COVID-19 situation.
"Nothing is more important than protecting our kids in this province. Parents expect us to take every precaution to keep their children safe when they go back to school in September - and that's exactly what we're delivering today," said Premier Ford. "This plan takes the best medical advice available from our public health experts to ensure every school board and every school is ready to ensure students continue learning in the safest way possible."
Ontario's plan to safely reopen schools will provide options for parents - to send their children in-class or to enter online learning - with health, safety and well-being at its core. Boards will be asked to plan for the following three scenarios to be implemented in September, depending on the public health situation at the time:
The government is instructing school boards to be prepared with a plan, should it be required, that includes an adapted delivery model, which could include alternate day or alternate week attendance, staggered bell times and recess, and different transportation arrangements, among a variety of other considerations to ensure the safety of students and staff.
The government's safety plan for schools was created following extensive consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, health experts on the COVID-19 Command Table, medical experts at The Hospital for Sick Children, education sector partners, frontline workers, parents and students. While this plan reflects the best medical and scientific advice and recommendations available, parents who do not feel comfortable having their children physically return to school will have a choice to pursue online remote learning.
"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 Minister Lecce. "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."
"Having careful plans in place to reopen schools in September is of the utmost importance for the mental and developmental health of children and youth, as well as their academic success," says Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids. "The risk posed by COVID-19 cannot be completely eliminated, however, there are significant steps that can be taken to mitigate risk and protect the health and well-being of students, staff and their families."
Key elements of the safety plan include:
Moreover, the government announced $4 million in net new funding for cleaning, cleaning protocols, and financial support to hire additional custodial staff in September to ensure schools are safe.
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. The ministry will be providing all boards with an opportunity to share their draft plans and seek feedback from a formalized table of medical experts that the ministry will be convening.
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.