Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the province’s plan for how students could return to classrooms in September.
School boards are being asked to plan for three options, including in-class learning, online learning and a hybrid of both with a maximum of 15 students in a class, attending school on alternate days.
“Those three scenarios depend on the public health situation at the time,” Minister Lecce said during Friday’s daily news briefing.
“There would be a maximum of 15 students in the classroom during the month of September.”
The province is also recommending that students only have contact with fellow classmates and one teacher.
“We’re allowing school boards to return to a normal school model, from an adaptive schooling model, down the road … if it makes sense,” Lecce said.
“Parents will have a choice to keep students home,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“This plan takes the best medical advice available from our public health experts to ensure every school board and every school is ready to ensure students continue learning in the safest way possible,” Ford said.
Ford said the earmarked $4-million in net new funding for cleaning, cleaning protocols, and financial support to hire additional custodial staff in September.
School boards have been asked to prepare their own safety plans for the upcoming school year and submit them to the ministry by August 4.
Students in Ontario have been out of the classroom since March 13.
The province asked school boards to plan for all three of the following options:
- Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols – Students going to school every day, in classes that reflect standard class size regulations.
- Modified school day routine – Based on public health advice, an adapted delivery model has been designed to allow for physical distancing and cohorts of students. Under this model, school boards are asked to maintain a limit of 15 students in a typical classroom at one time and adopt timetabling that would allow for students to remain in contact only with their classmates and a single teacher for as much of the school day as possible. This model would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.
- At home learning – Should the school closure be extended, or some parents choose not to send their child back to school, school boards need to be prepared to offer remote education. Remote education should be delivered online to the greatest extent possible, including the establishment of minimum expectations for students to have direct contact with their teacher at the same time on a regular basis, also known as synchronous learning. Synchronous learning can be used as part of whole-class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.
Key elements of the safety plan include:
- guidance for developing health and safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment;
- expectations of an in-class school environment;
- professional development training for teachers on the new protocols and directions;
- supports for students with special education needs;
- enhanced mental health and well-being supports;
- proposals on how educators and students can move fluidly between in-class and remote learning;
- guidelines to help schools and boards in their communications with students and parents;
- guidelines for student transportation systems;
- expectations for the delivery of curriculum and assessment across subjects and grades;
- guidance for working with First Nations students, parents and communities;
- regional options for reopening based on the advice of local public health authorities; and
- a checklist to help boards in their reopening planning.
Province increases funding to school boards by $250 per student
The plan comes as the province announced that next year’s annual per-student grant to school boards will be $12,525 – which is a two percent ($250) increase over the current academic year.
The funding allows school boards to properly set budgets.
“We are increasing the GSN (Grants for Student Needs) funding to all school boards in the province,” Lecce said
“At the end of the day, we’ll do whatever it takes to keep kids safe,” he added.
All 72 district school boards in the province are projected to have increases to their GSN allocations for the upcoming school year.
Under the GSN, the new $213 million student-centric Supports for Students Fund (SSF) will support:
- special education,
- mental health and well-being,
- language instruction,
- Indigenous education, and
- STEM programming.
Lecce said The Supports for Students Fund (SSF) can also be used for additional critical staffing needs during the return to school in September.