The Legislative Assembly of Ontario is adjourned and reconvenes in less than three weeks on September 14. The following summarizes recent items.
Federal Support for Return to School
On August 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced up to $2 billion in support for provinces and territories through the Safe Return to Class Fund. The federal government left it to the provinces to determine how to use the money, however some examples provided included investing and supporting adapted learning spaces, improved air ventilation, increased hand sanitation and hygiene, and purchases of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. The Prime Minister also announced an additional $112 million in funding for First Nations to support community measures to ensure a safe return to school on reserves.
The provincial government responded, with Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announcing that $381 million would be flowing to the province this fall, with the rest likely coming later this school year, pending federal approvals in December. The provincial government is allocating the funding in the following areas:
Reopening Plan Implementation – $200 million
- $100 million to complement the health and safety components of school reopening plans, in consultation with local public health units, including the hiring of custodians, HVAC, improvements, internet connectivity for students and other local needs.
- $30 million to support additional PPE for schools.
- $70 million for the temporary hiring of educators as required.
Student Transportation – $70 million
- $44.5 million in support of the Driver Retention Program (DRP).
- $25.5 million for route protection and to help reduce the number of students on buses.
Special Education and Mental Health Supports Enhancement – $12.5 million
- Will allow boards to hire and train additional staff and provide more mental health supports for students.
Additional Public Health Nurses – $12.5 million
- Supports up to 125 additional nursing positions in public health units across the province to help schools manage potential COVID-19 cases.
Remote Learning – $36 million
- Will help ensure that every school board offering virtual learning has a dedicated principal and administrative support for both its secondary and elementary virtual schools.
The province is also setting aside $50 million for any future pandemic learning needs.
REVISED Memo for B14 Appendix A that lists the funding per board
September Return-to-School Plans
- Monitoring and Managing COVID-19 in Schools
On August 27, the Ministry of Education sent a memo to school boards (attached) asking for each board to, “identify a COVID-19 contact person.” The memo included a list of ministry regional contacts for school boards to communicate with in order to track cases and monitor impacts of COVID-19 in schools.
- COVID-19 Management in Schools
On August 25, the Ministry of Education released the outbreak protocols for public schools as students return to class in September. The Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools document was developed in consultation with public health experts, including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and aims to help schools identify and isolate COVID-19 cases, reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and prevent and minimize outbreaks. Dr. Dirk Huyer, who was recently the Executive Lead for the COVID-19 Testing Approach at the Command Table and is the Chief Coroner for Ontario, will serve as Coordinator, Provincial Outbreak Response. Dr. Huyer will lead the province’s efforts to prevent and minimize COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of sectors, including the education, child care, agriculture and health care sectors.
- Policy/Program Memorandum No. 164
On August 14, the Ministry of Education released PPM 164: Requirements for Remote Learning that provided definitions of “Remote”, “Synchronous”, and “Asynchronous” Learning, and outlined Remote Learning Requirements for School Boards. School boards are to ensure the requirements of PPM 164 are implemented by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and are required to report at the end of the school year on their activities.Supporting memo, Additional Guidance and Funding for School Reopening, sent by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Deputy Minister Nancy Naylor.
Follow-up August 18 memo that addresses reopening models and staggered/delayed starts.
- Use of School Reserves and HVAC Funding
On August 13, the Ministry of Education announced that school boards could use some of their reserves towards the safe opening of schools. The announcement also includes funding to “support improved ventilation, air quality and HVAC system effectiveness in schools.” OPSBA responded by issuing a statement with concerns about the timing and the use of reserves.
- Professional Activity Days for the 2020-21 School Year
On August 12, the Minister of Education shared a memo with information about the three mandatory Professional Activity (PA) days that are to be implemented prior to the start of the school year and the topics to be addressed. PPM 151: Professional Activity Days Devoted to Provincial Education Priorities is to be revised and released this fall.
- K-12 SDC Working Group – Planning for Emergencies & Safety
On August 20, the government’s K-12 (Accessibility) Standards Development Committee’s Working Group on Planning for Emergencies and Safety released an interim report focusing on the impacts of returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic on students with disabilities. This Working Group will continue to create a framework and recommendations for Planning for Emergencies and Safety with a focus on students with disabilities.The K-12 Standards Development Committee is developing recommendations for a proposed accessibility standard to address barriers in publicly funded K-12 education, as required by Section 9 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
Student Transportation Advisory Group
OPSBA, via its Policy Development Work Team, recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Education responding to the consultation document entitled Student Transportation Consortia Model and Operations: Discussion Guide. Last week the ministry announced that it would be, “proceeding with a student transportation cost benchmark and procurement study to gain a better understanding of costs and cost drivers, as well as best practices for procurement and contracting practices.” The study is expected to be conducted this fall and there will be an opportunity for advisory group members to provide input and feedback. The Association is represented on this Advisory Group by OPSBA President Cathy Abraham and Executive Director Rusty Hick.
- August 27 News Release – Ontario Expanding Youth Training Programs to Promote the Skilled Trades
- August 25, 2020 News Release – Ontario Building New School to Support Etobicoke Community
- August 25, 2020 – Memo B13, Student Transportation Funding Support for Enhanced Cleaning and PPE for drivers
- August 25, 2020 – Memo B12, Optimizing Air Quality in Schools
- August 21, 2020 Statement – Ontario Selects External Agency to Support Operational Review of York Region Children’s Aid Society
- August 18, 2020 News Release – Ontario Transfers Governance of Francophone School Serving Students with Special Needs
- August 14, 2020 News Release – Ontario Supporting the Safe Reopening of More Spaces at Gyms and Recreation Centres