Students Return to In-Person Learning on January 17

Published on January 12, 2022

We know how critical in-person learning is to the wellbeing and mental health of a child. That is why we are meeting the challenge presented by the Omicron variant head-on to protect schools and keep students in-class by deploying millions of rapid tests, increasing access to the vaccine, deploying non-fit-tested N95 masks to staff and three-ply masks to students, and making additional investments in ventilation.


It is through these strong measures that often exceed public health advice – with the full support of the Chief Medical Officer of Health – that students will return to in-person learning on January 17. These new measures build on the province providing millions of high-quality masks for staff and students and thousands more HEPA filtration units.


The reopening of schools is supported by Chief Medical Officer of Health, all Medical Officers of Health, and the Children’s Health Coalition, because we know how critical schools are to mental and physical health, social development, and the academic success of students. Ontario’s plan includes additional enhanced measures, including the launch of a targeted booster campaign for education and childcare staff and millions of rapid tests to schools.


  • Rapid tests: Beginning the week of January 17, the Ontario government will provide rapid antigen tests for symptomatic students and staff in public elementary and secondary schools, along with children and staff in child care settings.
    • Over 3.9 million rapid antigen tests are being shipped to school boards this week, with more test arriving next week.
  • Vaccination Campaign: To further encourage voluntary vaccination, the government is launching a province-wide vaccine campaign within schools to increase uptake, while requiring written consent of parents.
  • While vaccination rates among children 12-17 are encouraging with 86% in York Region (82% Province-Wide) having received two doses, 52% of children aged 5-11 in York Region have received their first dose (nearly 50% province-wide).


Ontario’s plan to safely reopen schools also includes:


  • High Quality PPE: Providing access to more than 9 million non-fit-tested N95 masks to all education and child care staff – the only province to do so – with more than 4 million three-ply cloth masks for students recently shipped for use in schools.
  • Improved Ventilation: Deploying an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to learning environments, building on the ventilation improvements measures already in place at every school across Ontario, including the more than 70,000 HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices that have been provided, and $600 million in mechanical ventilation and safety upgrades. Since September 2021, all school boards were directed to transparently post school specific ventilation improvements at all 4800 publicly funded schools.
  • Stricter Screening: Updated and stricter screening requirements for students and staff to help prevent cases from entering schools.
  • Historic Funding: Access for school boards to $1.6 billion in resources to protect against COVID-19, including supports for mental health, technology, staffing, and ventilation.
  • Resources to Hire Staff: Support for staffing stability with 2,000 projected additional staff hired, including educators, custodians and mental health workers, in addition to  access to retired educators following a recent agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, and access to Teacher Candidates.
  • Enhanced Cohorting & Cleaning: New time-limited cohorting protocols to limit direct and indirect contacts by pausing high-contact sports, stricter lunch cohort requirements, and elevated cleaning requirements at all schools.


To further support staffing stability and reduce disruption for students and working families, the government is further expanding access to vaccines:


  • A mass vaccination clinic at the International Centre with dedicated times for education and child care staff along with 11 vaccination clinics across the GTHA that offer dedicated time slots for education and child care staff
  • Public Health Units working to support targeted and accelerated access to boosters
  • Select pharmacies offering targeted appointments


With these measures in place, including new testing options and expanded access to vaccination, and continuous improvement to ventilation, Premier Ford and our government is supporting safe in-person learning with greater stability for students and families.


We have now completed the delivery of 9.1 million non-fitted N95 masks for staff and over 4 million three-ply masks for students, and 3.9 millions of rapid test and 3000 HEPA units are on the way, building on the 70,000 already in place.


We have accelerated access to booster shots for education and child care staff by standing up over 10 more clinics in the past several days alone, in addition to providing access through mass-vaccination sites, pharmacies and other dedicated clinics.


The government is continuing PCR testing eligibility for symptomatic elementary and secondary students, and education staff.


We have also invested over $300 million to hire 2,350 new staff and yesterday announced an agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation that will deliver access to thousands of retired educators.


Recognizing the challenges posed by the Omicron, this enhanced plan will help stabilize the school workforce as we continue to do everything we can to keep children safe and learning.


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