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31-Jul-2020

Premier Ford reveals plan for back-to-school this September


kids wearing masks in school

BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — On July 30, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was joined by Ministers Christine Elliott (Health) and Stephen Lecce (Education), as well as Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate Chief Medical Officer of Health to reveal the province's plan to reopen schools this September.

"When it comes to keeping our kids safe, I won't take any unnecessary risks," said Ford. "The plan that we're announcing today is backed by the latest science and the best health advice available to us," he continued.

Citing consultations with top doctors and health experts in Ontario and Canada, the Premier warned of harm caused by prolonged school closures and emphasized the need to get kids back in school for the Fall. "We need to consider the toll it's taking on the physical and mental health and personal development of our kids," said Ford. "We're going to get our kids back to school in a way that looks and feels as much as it used to — five days-a-week, five hours of instruction a day with lunch and breaks in between."

All publicly-funded elementary schools will be reopened this September. Some of the highlights of the plan include:

  • Mandatory masks for staff and cloth masks for students for grades 4-12 with exceptions for those with medical conditions. Masks are optional for younger students.
  • Cohorting of students to limit contact with other students and staff.
  • Expanding testing within schools.
  • Frequent cleaning for school buses.
  • Additional health and safety training for teachers.

The plan will also include a safe reopening of the childcare facilities to permit operators to reach full capacity as of September 1.

Most secondary schools will reopen under an adapted model with students alternating between in-class and online studies. Some secondary schools with low-risk profiles will be able to reopen with full in-class schedules.

"Reopening schools is crucial to the social and emotional development of Ontario students," said Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. "It's also crucial to allowing parents to return to work and to support Ontario's economic recovery."

The government will be investing $309 million in the plan which will allow schools to hire 500 new public health nurses, 900 custodians to enhance cleaning, and the required supplies to keep students and staff safe within institutions across the province.

"Until we find a vaccine, COVID-19 is here to stay," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. In a July 29 press conference, he also announced the launching of an independent commission to conduct a full-scale investigation into COVID-19 and long-term-care led by Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco. The commission will investigate the spread of the virus within long-term care homes in Ontario. The report is due in the Spring of 2021.

"(The commission) will investigate the adequacy of measures taken by the province and other parties to prevent, isolate and contain the spread. Above all, it will provide our government with guidance on how to better protect long-term care home residents and staff from any future outbreaks," said Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton.

 


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Updated March 12, 2020.

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