The Ontario government says come September, elementary students will be in the classroom five days a week while most secondary students will be in at least 50 per cent of the time.
“School reopening is critical to learning and development for Ontario’s students, and a critical support for families to get back to work and allow for the re-opening of the economy,” the province said in a document released Thursday detailing the plan on how to reopen public schools this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Elementary school children from Kindergarten to Grade 8 will be able to get an in-person education five days a week and will remain in one cohort for the full day, with one teacher if possible, which will include lunch and recess. There will be staggered timing in recesses, lunches and bathroom breaks.
However, parents also have the option to have their children do remote learning which will be delivered by school boards.
Health and safety protocols will be in place and school boards will provide a complete elementary curriculum.
For high school students, all school boards are required to adopt secondary timetabling methods and to implement cohorting to limit the number of student-to-student contact.
Secondary schools across Ontario will be divided into “designated school boards” and “non-designated school boards.”
In designated school boards — which include 24 school boards such as Toronto, Peel, York, Durham, Halton, Waterloo, London, Ottawa, Niagara, Hamilton, Windsor-Essex among others — will have class cohorts of about 15 students, who attend school on alternate days or on alternate schedules.
Secondary students in these boards would see a hybrid-style education split between in-person classroom attendance for at least 50 per cent of instructional days and online learning.
In non-designated school boards — which includes 48 other boards in Ontario– schools will be permitted to open with daily attendance for students due to them typically having smaller enrollment sizes.
For students with a high level of special education needs, they will be allowed to attend school daily, the province said.
According to the province, about 2-million students attend more than 4,800 publicly funded schools across Ontario.
Health and Safety in schools
The government has implemented multiple health and safety guidelines for students and staff that include self-screening, adapted school environments, hand washing hygiene, cohorting, physical distancing, limiting visitors into schools and pre-registration.
When it comes to masking, students in Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks while in school and on school property. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged — but not required to — wear masks in indoor, common spaces.
Medical masks will be given to teachers and staff and made available for students.
Reasonable exceptions to masking requirements will be put in place by schools and their school boards.
Not included in the guidelines is regular, mandatory testing of teachers. According to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, testing is only one part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and requires a large amount of resources taken away from those who have symptoms or are suspected cases.
“If you test somebody today, you only know if they’re infected today,” Yaffe said at a press conference on Thursday. “In fact, if you’re testing in a population that doesn’t have very much COVID, you’ll get false positives almost half of the time… so it will just complicate the picture.”
“If we have evidence of a case, even a suspect case in a school, all the contacts of that case, be it a child or a teacher, would be tested regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not. That is something we’ve learned with COVID, it is very important to do that.”
The Ontario government said a “new school health monitoring system” will be established to track, deal with and detect possible positive COVID-19 cases in schools.
The province said it has also invested $309 million in new funding to address reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic which includes money for masks, PPE, cleaning supplies, additional staff, health and safety training, lab testing, transportation, up to 500 nurses, mental health and additional supports for students with special needs.
In a joint statement, the province’s four major teachers’ unions said that simply isn’t enough money to ensure a safe return to class for staff and students.
“The premier promised Ontarians he ‘will spare no expense’ to keep people safe, yet he and … Lecce are betraying that promise to students, educators, parents and communities with this ill-prepared plan,” said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
Full List of “Designated” School Boards
- Toronto, Toronto Catholic, Peel, Dufferin-Peel Catholic, York, York Catholic, Durham, Durham Catholic, Halton, Halton Catholic, Waterloo, Waterloo Catholic, Thames Valley, London Dist. Catholic, Ottawa-Carleton, Ottawa Catholic, Hamilton-Wentworth, Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic, Niagara, Niagara Catholic, Greater Essex County, Windsor-Essex Catholic, Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est and Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario.
Full List of “Non-Designated” School Boards
- Algoma DSB, Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic DSB, Avon Maitland DSB, Bluewater DSB, Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic DSB, Bruce-Grey Catholic DSB, Catholic DSB of Eastern Ontario, Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien, Conseil scolaire catholique Mon Avenir, Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Aurores boréales, Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Grandes Rivières, Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon, Conseil scolaire catholique FrancoNord, Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario, Conseil scolaire public du Nord-Est de l’Ontario, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, District School Board Ontario North East, Grand Erie DSB 20.Hastings and Prince Edward DSB, Huron Perth Catholic DSB, Huron-Superior Catholic DSB, Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB, Keewatin-Patricia DSB, Kenora Catholic DSB, Lakehead DSB, Lambton Kent DSB, Limestone DSB, Near North DSB, Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic DSB, Northeastern Catholic DSB. Northwest Catholic DS, Peterborough Victoria Northumberland & Clarington Catholic DSB, Rainbow DSB, Rainy River DSB, Renfrew County Catholic DSB, Renfrew County DSB, Simcoe County DSB, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic DSB, St. Clair Catholic DSB, Sudbury Catholic DS, Superior North Catholic DSB, Superior-Greenstone DSB, Thunder Bay Catholic DSB,Trillium Lakelands DSB, Upper Canada DSB, Upper Grand DSB, and Wellington Catholic DSB.
—With files from The Canadian Press