Kiiwetinoong MPP and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Critic for the NDP, Sol Mamakwa, says schools in northwestern Ontario will need more support and funding to safely reopen in the fall.

Mamakwa joined NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Deputy Leader John Vanthof to call for more resources for northern Ontario schools, during Question Period at Queen’s Park earlier this week. He says a lack of internet access and mandatory online courses are a recipe for failure.

“Far North, remote and Indigenous communities, whose schools and homes don’t have access to broadband, are being left out. Their remote locations mean students cannot access broadband anywhere else,” said Mamakwa.

“Students in fly-in northern communities won’t be able to complete mandatory online courses to finish their studies. Our students deserve equitable access to technology and education, whether they attend a provincial or a First Nations school.”

The Ministry of Education has released three potential models for what the return to school might look like in September. They include a typical school day routine with increased safety protocols, a model based on alternating days or weeks of in-class learning, and the third at-home learning model. A decision on the potential models is expected in early August.

Last month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that the return to school in the fall of 2020-21 will be voluntary and based on parent choice. For those who don’t wish to send their kids to school, school boards will be required to offer additional online learning courses.

The NDP says their vision for a safe return to schools in September includes:

- hiring more teachers, education workers, custodians and support staff to keep classrooms safe and disinfected,
- hiring more early childhood educators for childcare spaces,
- sourcing additional classroom spaces in municipal spaces,
- extra funding to support students who are struggling and students with special needs,
- a plan to address the needs of Indigenous and racialized students whose communities have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.

However, last week Ontario announced they are investing an additional $736 million more in public education for the 2020-21 school year, increasing the provincial total to over $25.5 billion.

A Supports for Students Fund will also be made available for school boards to help hire additional staff during the return to school in September, including hiring additional custodians and educational assistants.

For more information:
Ministry releases 3 potential models for back to school
Major funding increase for local school boards