The Legislative Assembly of Ontario is on winter break and is scheduled to return on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. The following is a summary of information since the last Legislative Update in mid-December 2020.

COVID-19 Update

On December 26, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., a provincewide shutdown was announced, which would be in effect for a period of 14 days in Northern Ontario and a period of 28 days in Southern Ontario to stop the spread of COVID-19. This shutdown included the closing of all publicly funded schools in Ontario to in-person learning following the 2020-21 winter break, with elementary students across the province originally scheduled to study virtually until January 11, 2021. On January 7, the government announced that elementary students in Southern Ontario would continue to learn virtually until January 25, and the lockdown in Northern Ontario would be extended for an additional 14 days to match with Southern Ontario. On January 8, the Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister issued a memo with information about the southern school closure extension, and reminders for online learning supports, and the Support for Learners program.

In summary: Elementary and secondary students in Northern Ontario will be studying virtually until January 11, 2021, and all students (elementary and secondary) in Southern Ontario will be studying virtually until January 25, 2021.

See statement issued by OPSBA President Cathy Abraham

Due to the onset of virtual learning across the province from January 4 to 8 and the winter break, cases of COVID-19 in publicly funded schools were not reported in the past 14 days. As of January 12, cases will be reported on the  government’s website once again, when in-person school resumes in Northern Ontario. Cases in southern Ontario school communities will not be reported until in-person school resumes there.

A total of 87,563 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 4,053 vaccinations (two doses) completed. The rollout of Phase One of the government’s vaccine implementation plan has a goal of ensuring that all residents, health care workers and essential caregivers at long-term care homes in the priority regions of Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex receive a COVID-19 vaccination by January 21, 2021.

See Provincial vaccination data

On January 6, the government announced a new pilot rapid testing program for international travelers in partnership with Toronto Pearson International Airport. The tests are voluntary and will be provided for free to eligible international travelers returning to Ontario. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health continues to strongly advise that travel out of the province should be limited to essential purposes only.

Other information

2021-2022 Grant For Student Needs – OPSBA Submission

In December, information was shared with the sector about the 2021-22 Education Funding Consultation Guide that includes the following areas of focus: COVID-19 Outbreak Response, the Online Learning Adjustment, the Priorities and Partnerships Fund, Reducing Administrative Burden and Red Tape, the School Board Administration and Governance Grant, Managing Information for Student Achievement (MISA), Census Data and Secondary Class Size Compliance. OPSBA’s Education Program and Policy Development Work Teams have met to review key messages and have begun to prepare a response. Outreach has also been made to member board senior business officials and OPSBA’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council. Submissions are due January 15, 2021.

It appears that the government intends to conduct pre-budget consultations this month but no final details have been shared. In past years, the government’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs have toured the province hosting meetings in a handful of cities and towns. OPSBA will continue to monitor the plans for this year with new information to be shared on the 2021 Budget consultations webpage.

Student Trustees Elections

Due to the pandemic’s lockdown and school closures, there had been discussions among stakeholders about moving the date for student trustees serving one year terms. This has now been extended from the last day of February to April 30, 2021 and aligns with the election date for student trustees serving two-year terms. This is only in effect for the 2021 student trustee elections. A memo announcing this change has been issued and the regulation that governs student trustees can be found here: Ontario Regulation 7/07: Student Trustees.

Electronic Meetings – Reminder

In early November, the government announced the continuation of “fully electronic meetings” until November 30, 2021. Included in that memo was a new requirement for school boards, effective February 2, 2021, to allow members of the public to hear and be heard during meetings. The Ministry memo was issued November 6 and here is the link to the regulation: Ontario Regulation 463/97: Electronic Meetings And Meeting Attendance.

Student Transportation Advisory Group

The student transportation advisory group, with OPSBA representation from President Cathy Abraham and Executive Director Rusty Hick, meets again on January 11. This group includes representatives from school board associations and school bus stakeholder groups and it has been reviewing the funding formula for student transportation, consortia model and operations, and procurement.

OPSBA Public Education Symposium 2021

OPSBA’s Public Education Symposium will be held as a virtual event on January 28, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. (plus a social that evening). See the OPSBA website for more information.

Other News Releases and Information