Ontario Schools to Shift to Remote LearningPublished on April 13, 2021
As the Chief Medical Officer of Health and numerous local medical officers of health have stated, schools have been safe. Ontario has the lowest case rates among provinces for youth under 20, outside Atlantic Canada.
We’ve invested $1.6 billion, upgraded ventilation, supported the hiring of 7000 staff, and consistently ramped up testing, and other health and safety measures. However, the concerning rise in community transmission and ICU occupancy increases the risk that cases will be brought into schools, putting students and staff at risk.
That is why in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, our government announced that all publicly-funded schools will shift to remote learning following the April Break, and private schools who are operating in-person this week are to do so by April 15. While schools have been safe, this action is necessary to protect our schools as well as keep students, staff and their families safe.
In order to prepare for shifts to remote learning throughout this school year, we’ve invested $224 million in remote learning staffing support, course content, and devices for students. And to build upon our progress and protect schools, our government is accelerating the delivery of vaccines to education staff for all special education staff province-wide, and for education staff in priority neighborhoods in Toronto and Peel.
As more supply becomes available, we will expand to other hot-spot regions and in communities across Ontario, because our focus is getting every frontline worker in our school and child care settings immunized. Once elementary students move to remote learning, child care for non-school aged children will remain open, before and after school programs will be closed and emergency child care for the school-aged children of health care and frontline workers will be provided.
As part of the government's efforts to protect the most vulnerable, boards will be required to make provisions for continued in-person support for students with special education needs who require additional support that cannot be accommodated through remote learning.
We know the drastic mental health impacts this pandemic has had on children, and we’ve invested an additional $52.5M in supports for mental health and special education for this school year, which has supported the hiring of over 200 additional mental health workers in schools. This builds on the doubling of permanent mental health funding to $40M and has made it easier for children to access the help they need. We have consistently advocated for open schools – but broader community cases and the upward trend must decline in order to keep schools safe for students and staff, and to ensure they reopen for Ontario’s youth.
That’s why it’s more critical than ever to be diligent in following public health measures, and reduce community transmission, especially amid the increase in variants of concern. We owe it to our kids. We will continue to follow the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health to keep students, staff, and families safe, and to determine when schools can safely reopen.
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