Children with special education needs who struggle with remote learning will be allowed to attend school daily for instruction.
Medical masks will be provided for teachers and other staff.
Parents have the ability to opt their children out of in-person classes.
“When it comes to keeping our kids safe, I won’t take any unnecessary risks,” said Premier Doug Ford at the briefing Thursday afternoon.
Approximately 2 million students attend publicly-funded schools in the province.
According to the province’s reopening plan, elementary level students will remain a single cohort, five days per week, including for recess and lunch. Class sizes will remain at the mandated maximum levels in place before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Students in Grades 4 through 12 are required to wear a non-medical mask or cloth face covering while at school. Younger children will be encouraged, but not required, to do so.
School boards are required to provide the full curriculum.
Secondary students in “designated boards” (mainly in urban and suburban areas with relatively high student populations) will attend school on alternating days, in cohorts of about 15.
High schools in non-designated boards (with smaller enrolment) will be able to offer full-time learning, the province says.
All school boards will adopt secondary timetabling methods that emphasize cohorting of students as much as possible to limit the number of student-to-student contacts.
Other measures that will be in place to ensure the safety of students include:
• “Self-screening” by families and teachers
• Students and staff who develop any COVID-19 symptoms will be “immediately separated”
• Anyone who tests positive will not be able to return to school until they are cleared by local public health officials, and those who test negative will need to be symptom-free for 24 hours before going back
• Emphasis on hand hygiene
• Distancing when possible
• Limiting visitors in schools
• Directional signage to limit the cross-flow of students in hallways and on playgrounds
The Ministry of Education says schools can offer clubs and organized sports if social distancing is possible and spaces are cleaned and disinfected between each use.
The ministries of education and health plan also to establish a new school health monitoring system that will be used to track any possible cases of COVID-19 in facilities.
The provincial government says it will invest a total of $309 million into the plan, including:
• $60 million for masks and PPE
• $80 million for staffing
• $25 million for cleaning supplies
• $10 million for health and safety training
• $40 million for cleaning supplies and PPE for the school transportation system
• $23.7 million for lab testing capacity
• $50 million for additional public health nurses
• $10 million for mental health supports
• $10 million for students with special needs
“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 government wrote in a media briefing document.