Premier Doug Ford announced today that students will be returning to school, in some form, come September.
However, how exactly the return to school will unfold remains unclear, and will vary largely region-to-region.
"There is no blanket solution for the whole province," Ford said in a press conference today, highlighting the fact that decisions need to be made based on local needs.
Boards will be asked to plan for the following three scenarios to be implemented in September, depending on the local public health situation at the time:
- Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols - Students going to school every day, in classes that reflect standard class size regulations.
- Modified school day routine - Based on public health advice, an adapted delivery model has been designed to allow for physical distancing and cohorts of students. Under this model, school boards are asked to maintain a limit of 15 students in a typical classroom at one time and adopt timetabling that would allow for students to remain in contact only with their classmates and a single teacher for as much of the school day as possible. This model would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.
- At home learning - Should the school closure be extended, or some parents choose not to send their child back to school, school boards need to be prepared to offer remote education. Remote education should 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. Synchronous learning can be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce stated that, if in various regions the curve is flattened, those boards will return from the adapted model to a more conventional model of learning. Low-risk boards will move to the next stage while high-risk boards will be scaled back.
Key elements of the safety plans schools will receive include:
- guidance for developing health and safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment;
- expectations of an in-class school environment;
- professional development training for teachers on the new protocols and directions;
- supports for students with special education needs;
- enhanced mental health and well-being supports;
- proposals on how educators and students can move fluidly between in-class and remote learning;
- guidelines to help schools and boards in their communications with students and parents;
- guidelines for student transportation systems;
- expectations for the delivery of curriculum and assessment across subjects and grades;
- guidance for working with First Nations students, parents and communities;
- regional options for reopening based on the advice of local public health authorities; and
- a checklist to help boards in their reopening planning
School boards have been asked to prepare their own safety plans for the upcoming school year and submit them to the ministry by Aug. 4, 2020.
Premier Doug Ford is slated to provide a COVID-19 update at 1 p.m. today.
It is expected that Ontario will announce the plan for reopening schools in September.
Schools across the province have been closed since March 13, when the government moved to shut down much of Ontario to address the spread of COVID-19.
The school year has continued with remote learning, and Education Minister Stephen Lecce had promised a plan for a safe September reopening by the end of this month.
A report released this week by medical experts from Toronto's SickKids Hospital said children are not the super-spreaders of COVID-19 that experts initially believed they would be.
Guidelines on reopening provided by those experts to the province include extra hand hygiene, environmental cleaning and ventilation, and taking classes outdoors when possible — but not requiring masks for kids or discouraging close play.
More remaining regions of Ontario are moving into the second stage of the province's reopening plan today, including parts of the Greater Toronto Area.
Ford will be joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, to make the announcement.
Village Media will carry the livestream, so stay tuned.