Elementary students in Ontario will be allowed to go back to school full time come September, Education Minister Steven Lecce announced today , while most high school students will split their time between the classroom and online learning.
“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 briefing document for the media.
Elementary level students will remain a single cohort, five days per week, including for recess and lunch. Further, school boards will be required to provide the full curriculum. Class sizes will remain at the mandated maximum levels in place before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Secondary students in “designated boards” — mainly in urban and suburban areas with relatively high student populations — will attend school on alternating days, in groups of about 15. All Hamilton and Halton School boards—public and Catholic will operate their secondary schools on alternating days.
High schools in non-designated boards, which typically have smaller enrolment, will be able to offer full-time learning, the province says.
Students in Grades 4 through 12 will be 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. Medical masks will be provided for teachers and other staff.
Meanwhile, parents will be able to opt their children out of in-person classes, if they wish. Children with special education needs who struggle with remote learning will be allowed to attend school daily for instruction.
The government has announced an additional $309 Million to allow Boards to meet the additional costs the reopening plan will create.
The province says other measures that will be in place to ensure the safety of students include:
“Self-screening” by families and teachers.
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.
When the academic year begins, schools can offer clubs and organized sports if social distancing is possible and spaces are cleaned and disinfected between each use, the Ministry of Education says.
Yesterday, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children released its own newly revised guidelines for reopening schools. The recommendations include staggered lunch times, no large assemblies, and mandatory masks for older students.