Government Takes Further Action to Protect Schools

Published on November 01, 2021

Minister Lecce, joined by Dr. Cohn, President of the Hospital for Sick Children, announced new measures to increase access to low barrier testing options to continue to keeping Ontario schools open and safe. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario Science Table and the Children’s Health Coalition have been clear: these cautious school-safety protocols are working. 

 

While we are grateful for the collective work that is helping to keep schools safe, Premier Ford and this government is taking nothing for granted. That is why the government announced new actions that will help minimize distribution and maximize in-person learning, by:

  • offering take-home polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing kits to all publicly funded schools across the province, starting in mid-November (also available to all private and First Nation schools). 
  • the launch of a new “test-to-stay" approach for unvaccinated students to prevent whole school dismissals. 
  • elevating the requirement for unvaccinated staff to undergo rapid antigen testing from two to three times per week. 

While Ontario is the first province to offer PCR take-home testing kits for all students and staff, we will continue to remain vigilant and ensure children receive the academic, social, physical, and mental health benefits of being in school.

 

The government is committed to keeping schools safe and open. That is why we are following the updated advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health to put in place a layered approach that aligns with the best advice of the Ontario Science Table — including a major emphasis on air ventilation improvement, indoor-masking, strict screening and the enhanced cleaning of schools. As result, we have one of the highest vaccination rate and lowest case rate for youth in Canada.

 

Since the start of the school year, Ontario has strengthened testing options for students and staff, including launching a take-home test pilot for asymptomatic high school students, to increase presenteeism in class. We are expanding upon this initiative by offering it to all schools in the province, which will add another layer of protection and demonstrates our continuing commitment in protecting everyone in the school community.

 

By expanding access to testing and helping to better screen for COVID-19, we are protecting the progress we have made so far in keeping our schools safer for students and helping to limit disruption to the school year. Ontario is the only province in Canada to offer this type of comprehensive and accessible testing.

 

Students with COVID-19 symptoms and students who have been identified as close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case will be able to pick up PCR self-collection kits at school, complete the self-collection at home and drop them off at participating pharmacies or targeted assessment centres for processing.

 

In addition, the government is implementing a rapid antigen testing program to support safe in-person school attendance in schools with multiple cases of COVID-19. The “test-to-stay" approach involves frequent testing over two weeks for unvaccinated students in a school that might otherwise require whole school dismissal.

 

The government is also announcing that staff who are unvaccinated or who have not declared their vaccination status will be required to undergo rapid antigen testing three times per week. These additional efforts build on the extensive safety protocols and investments we have made to protect schools, including the more than $600 million our government has provided to support ventilation improvements.

 

By keeping students and staff safe this school year, we are ensuring a continuity of world-class learning in every school throughout Ontario.

 

Learn more: https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001065/government-takes-further-action-to-protect-schools