Ontario's Plan for Safe Reopening of Schools in September

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Ontario government announced the reopening of schools for in-class instruction beginning this September. The government has shared a plan that prioritizes the health and safety of students and staff and provides school boards with resources and flexibility; while accommodating regional differences in trends of key public health indicators. This plan was developed in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the COVID-19 Command Table and paediatric experts.

Elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) will reopen provincewide, with in-class instruction five days a week. Secondary schools with lower risk will reopen with a normal daily schedule, five days a week, while most secondary schools will start the school year in an adapted model of part-time attendance with class cohorts of up to 15 students alternating between attending in-person and online. Students from Grade 4-12 and school staff will be required to wear masks.

Parents will continue to have the option to enroll their children in remote delivery, which respects their fundamental role in making the final determination of whether they feel safe with their children returning to school.

Based on the best medical advice available, the province is implementing additional public health protocols to keep students and staff safe when they return to school in September. To support the implementation of these protocols, the government is providing funding in targeted, immediate, and evidence-informed investments, including:

  • procurement of 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;
  • hire up to 500 additional school-focused nurses in public health units to provide rapid-response support to schools and boards in facilitating public health and preventative measures, including screening, testing, tracing and mitigation strategies;
  • provide capacity for testing to help keep schools safe;
  • hire over 900 additional custodians and purchase cleaning supplies for schools;
  • clean school buses, to ensure that students are in a thoroughly cleaned transportation environment;
  • health and safety training for occasional teachers, who have historically not been covered by professional development that is offered to permanent teachers;
  • support special needs students in the classroom; and
  • support student mental health.

This funding is in addition funding for mental health and technology, which will see dedicated to mental health staff, resources, and programs, as well as technology funding to support the procurement of over 35,000 devices for Ontario's students to support their synchronous learning in-school and beyond.

The Ministry of Education has received clear and compelling public health guidance to inform the delivery of instruction for boards for the 2020-2021 school year. These decisions are adaptable to changing public health situations and based on rigorous and data-informed guidance of leading medical, epidemiological, and paediatric leaders in the province.