Enhanced Safety Measures in Place as In-Person Learning Resumes Across Ontario
Over $106 Million in Funding to local school boards received to date to Protect Students and Staff From COVID-19
February 5, 2021
Durham Region, ON – This week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the dates for the return of in-person learning in all remaining Ontario public health units (PHUs). Durham Region and surrounding area elementary and secondary schools will return to in-person learning on Monday, February 8, 2021. The government’s decision was based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the unanimous recommendation of the Council of Medical Officers of Health, and with the support of local Medical Officers of Health.
To support the safe return to in-person learning, Ontario is providing additional support and new measures. Although transmission in schools has been low, this funding will be used to improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health and hire more staff. With this additional funding, Ontario is providing more than $1.6 billion to better protect students, staff and families. Over $16.5 Million in new COVID-19 resources have been allocated this week to school boards that touch on Durham region, with the following breakdown:
New COVID Funding total $16,881,263 :
- Durham District School Board to receive $6,624,410
- Durham Catholic District School Board to receive $2,041,921
- Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board to receive $3,316,127
- Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir to receive $1,897,605
- Conseil scolaire Viamonde to receive $1,531,140
- Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board to receive $1,470,060
Since the start of the pandemic a total of $106,014,843 has been allocated to school boards that operate schools within Durham Region and the surrounding area.
“This funding is at the heart of our plan to keep kids learning and will support the safe return to in-person learning in all schools in Pickering-Uxbridge and across Durham Region,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Member of Provincial Parliament for Pickering-Uxbridge. “This is a firm commitment to protecting our students, families, staff and the most vulnerable.”
“This significant funding complements the already landmark investments made by our Government in support of safe and healthy schools. Furthermore, it enhances the ability of our local School Boards to continue to protect our students, staff and families here in Whitby as we weather this global pandemic together,” said Lorne Coe, MPP Whitby and Chief Government Whip.
To support the safe return of in-person learning, Ontario has introduced new measures to continue to protect students and staff against COVID-19 in the classroom. These measures include:
- Province-wide access, in consultation with the local PHU, to targeted asymptomatic testing for students and staff;
- Mandatory masking requirement for students in Grades 1-3, and masking requirement for Grades 1-12 outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained;
- Providing 3.5 million high quality cloth masks to schools as back-up supply for Grade 1-12 students;
- Enhanced screening for all students and staff;
- New guidance discouraging students from congregating before and after school; and,
- Temporary certification of eligible teacher candidates who are set to graduate in 2021 to stabilize staffing levels, following high levels of absenteeism.
- “To protect Ontario students and staff, and with the aim of reopening all schools, we have again strengthened our plan with tougher measures and new investments,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We agree with parents and medical experts that kids need to be learning in class – alongside their friends and teachers – as it is crucial for their mental well-being and development. We will continue to follow expert medical advice and work to get all schools open, for children in all regions of our province.”
“Our Government is taking decisive action to protect our kids and education staff, against the spread of COVID-19, across Ontario. This additional funding is crucial in helping students across Durham Region to return safely to the classroom,” said Rod Phillips, MPP Ajax.
Ontario’s plan to safely reopen schools draws on the advice of leading health experts and the best available data. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, support the safe return to in-person learning for students and staff and are encouraged by Ontario’s experience in safely reopening schools in September. This was evidenced in the data on COVID-19 cases in schools during the fall, at a time of lower community transmission.
“This additional funding will assist school boards in implementing the recommended enhanced safety measures for children and educators as they return to in-person learning,” said Lindsey Park, MPP Durham. “I want to thank the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the local Durham Public Health unit for their efforts to help develop a plan for a safe return to school in Durham.”
In the PHUs that are permitted to return to in-person learning on February 8, before and after school child care programs are permitted to resume on that day, therefore February 5 will be the last day for emergency child care.
Targeted asymptomatic testing has helped to identify cases early, inform public health action, and manage outbreaks. Expanding access to targeted asymptomatic testing will be a valuable tool for local public health units and schools. To support the expansion of targeted asymptomatic testing, the Ministry of Education has procured test collection capacity for up to 50,000 tests per week, to be deployed at the discretion of local public health units in collaboration with schools.
To address labour needs and high rates of staff absenteeism, the Ministry of Education has worked with the Ontario College of Teachers to introduce a new temporary certificate to help stabilize staffing levels in our schools. This will allow school boards to employ eligible teacher candidates when there are no occasional teachers available from their current lists. With this important change, we are helping schools with operational challenges to remain open. This decision underscores the shortage of available certified teachers in the province, following the hiring of over 3,400 net new temporary teaching positions.
PHUs continue to reserve the authority to close schools to in-person learning based on local circumstances.
- The COVID-19 resources provided to school boards to support safe and healthy learning environments are in addition to the landmark investment of over $25.5 billion in education, which represents an increase of over $700 million for the 2020-21 school year.
- Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has invested more than $42.5 million in student mental health, including an additional $10 million announced on January 20, 2021, to respond to the extension of virtual learning.
Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.