Parents are getting more details on what back-to-school will look like in September. Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the school will be open, and he talked about the return to class earlier today.
"We're prepared for anything armed with the best medical advice available to protect your child at school. With these measures in place, our classrooms will be as safe as we can make them because -- when it comes down to it -- our children belong in school," he said, during his daily briefing.
Still, the premier emphasized parents will have the final say, in terms of the decision to send their children or keep their kids at home, where they can continue with online lessons.
Classes haven't been in session since students left for the March Break, as the spread of the coronavirus took over the agenda and changed priorities for governments at all levels around the world. However, since then, the number of cases have fallen and public health experts have been allowing the provinciale economy to reopen.
The province says elementary and intermediate schools -- Kindergarten to Grade 8 -- will reopen provincewide, with in-class instruction five days a week.
The Ministry of Education says secondary schools with lower risk will reopen with a normal daily schedule, five days a week. 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.
Queen's Park adds students from Grade 4-12 and school staff will be required to wear masks.
In a move to reassure parents, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the province is increasing spending on things like masks, custodial services and mental health, in order to make it safer for a return to school this fall.
From a school in southern Ontario, Lecce offered his comments on their decision to reopen in September.
"We've heard loud and clear from medical and pediatric experts that COVID-19 has had profound mental health impacts on our kids. Now, more than ever, reopening schools is crucial to the social-emotional development of Ontario students, also crucial to allowing parents to return to work and to support Ontario's economic recovery," he said.
As part of their decision, the province is promising to spend more on safety and mental health. The Ontario government is supporting the re-opening of schools with $309 million in new investments to ensure a safe return, including funding for:
- up to 500 public health nurses, phased in,to assist schools and boards in local health protocols;
- masks and personal protective equipment;
- additional teaching positions;
- additional school custodians and enhanced cleaning supplies;
- cleaning for school buses and personal protective equipment for bus drivers;
- additional supports for students with special education needs;
- additional health and safety training for school-based staff;
- increased funding for mental health supports;
- funding for testing
EarlyON Child and Family Centres will also be permitted to reopen, the province says, with in-person programming along with before- and after-school programs for school aged children which will be permitted to operate with standard ratios and maximum group size requirements.
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