Ontario to expand targeted asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for both students and staff

University students in education programs will be able to fill staffing shortage gap

With more schools opening across the province, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Monday that targeted asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be made available at all public health units where students have returned to class.

Provincial officials anticipate Ontario might be able to do 50,000 tests each week. Officials added the tests for both students and staff will be voluntary.

Targeted testing was done in the late fall at some schools in hotspots in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa. Officials reported today that public health units found that initial phase useful in tracking and containing COVID-19 cases within their respective jurisdictions.

Lecce also said the government will assist school boards struggling with teacher shortages due to the pandemic by allowing university students in education programs to fill in on a supply basis when there are no occasional teachers available on the list.

A new temporary teaching certificate will be available for eligible teacher candidates who are currently enrolled in an Ontario Initial Teacher Education program, have successfully completed a portion of the practicum, are making satisfactory progress in their program, and expect to complete the program by Dec. 31, 2021.

Eligible educators from outside Ontario will also be able to apply for temporary certificates, which will expire on Dec. 31, 2021.

The province is also directing $318 million from the federal government that was allocated for the safe reopening of schools.

The government will spend $62 million for summer learning, $65 million on health and safety funds for transportation and Personal Protective Equipment, $80 million for the purchase of laptops and tablets, and $60 million for online learning, including the development of digital course content and technological supports. There is $50 million in the docket to improve air quality in classrooms and portables, with another $33 million for extra measures to help communities in COVID hotspots.

Students in Simcoe-Muskoka and several other health units including those in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas continue to learn online.