The Ontario government announced it is providing more than $2 billion in new supports to advance public education for the 2021-22 school year. The support includes more than $1.6 billion in resources to respond to COVID-19 and an $85.5 million commitment to support learning recovery and renewal in response to the ongoing pandemic.
For the 2021-22 school year, the province has also committed to providing school boards with $3.2 billion to support students with special education needs through the Grants for Student Needs .
The new funding includes $59 million for continued special education, mental health, well-being and equity supports, $35 million in additional technology funding (including an annual $15 million to support technology such as devices for students in the GSN and $20 million in connectivity supports for remote learning technology) and $20 million in new funding to support learning.
The province is allocating $29 million for increased costs related to school operations, $66 million for enhanced cleaning protocols and other health and safety measures in student transportation, $86 million for school-focused nurses in public health units and testing, and $384 million in temporary COVID-19 staffing supports.
Up to $450 million will be provided in personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical supplies and equipment, e.g. cleaning supplies provided through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and the pandemic stockpile. Up to $508 million has been allocated for school boards to access up to 2 per cent of reserves to support COVID-related expenses.
The province says it will support learning recovery and renewal by investing an additional $85.5 million to help students across the province address the effects of learning disruptions as a result of COVID-19. Investments will support reading and math for young learners, student re-engagement, and mental health and well-being supports. These learning recovery and renewal measures will include partnering with School Mental Health Ontario to support educators and enable timely interventions; additional teaching resources including math leads and coaches; and summer learning and special education supports, among other initiatives.
“Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has said that schools have been safe, and with this record investment and continued implementation of the best medical advice, we will keep schools safe as we look ahead to September,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “Our investments can help hire more than 1,000 mental health workers and allow children to have direct access to teacher-led math tutoring.”
According to the province the Ministry of Education will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in addition to consultations with The Hospital for Sick Children and other pediatric institutes, to confirm this summer the final health and safety strategies required for the upcoming school year. Officials said the intention is to deliver a learning experience as safe and normal as possible, including planning for physical education and extracurriculars.