Ontario’s Ministry of Education says after consultations with medical professionals, students will have the choice to wear face masks during the 2022-2023 school year.

“Our government’s Plan to Catch Up is designed to keep students in safe classrooms without disruption, which is why we followed the expert advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, as kids return to class this September,” says Minister Stephen Lecce, in a statement provided to Q104.

Lecce adds on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, that most health and safety requirements remain unchanged from the previous direction given to school boards at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, including the voluntary use of masks.

“On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we have taken action by deploying over 100K standalone HEPA filter units to classrooms and learning spaces, enhanced cleaning, and continued access to rapid antigen tests. Our government remains focused on providing students with a positive, safe, and normal school experience.”

As well, school boards will continue to have access to rapid antigen tests to offer to students and staff.

The provincial government says its education plan for 2022-2023, Ontario’s Plan to Catch Up, prioritizes getting children back into the classroom with a ‘full’ school experience, tutoring supports to fill gaps, preparing students for future jobs, funding school improvement work and historic funding in mental health supports.

“The Plan to Catch Up is focused on helping students get back on track, learn life and job skills, and enjoy the full return of clubs, sports, and extracurriculars – critical for student physical and mental health. That starts with being in class, on time, with the full school experience coupled with historic mental health and tutoring supports,” adds Lecce.

The plan adds over $26.6 billion in funding for the 2022-2023 school year, $175 million for advanced tutoring programs and up to $304 million to hire 3,000 front-line staff, teachers, education workers and assistants.

Students are set to return to school by September 6, 2022, in northwestern Ontario.