The Legislative Assembly of Ontario resumed May 12 for a one-day session for a reduced Question Period, to renew the emergency declaration (now extended until June 2) and introduce and pass Bill 190, COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act, 2020. The government is now resuming twice-weekly Question Periods, to be held every Tuesday and Wednesday, until June 4 — which is when the House is scheduled to rise for summer. The government’s news release stated that, “the province will be providing an update on school closures and child care early next week” and this could be as early as Tuesday. OPSBA will share any information as soon as possible about this announcement.
Bill 190, COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act, 2020
This bill was introduced by government House Leader Paul Calandra and includes changes to 15 different acts, including the Education Act, which is Schedule 9 of this legislation. “Currently, the Education Act includes provisions addressing when members of a board are required to be physically present at board meetings. These provisions are repealed and related regulation-making powers are amended and enacted.” School board trustees were required to physically attend at least three meetings in 12 months beginning December 1 and the changes are to provide flexibility in certain emergency situations to allow trustees to meet virtually during school closures. A change to Ontario Regulation 463/97 Electronic Meetings is expected soon.
Following the March Break, Ontario’s schools have now been closed for eight weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with students and teachers connecting from home. On May 14, the Ontario government announced that certain retailers, seasonal businesses and health and community service providers will be permitted to open or expand their services as part of the first stage of reopening on May 19, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., provided the general trend on health indicators continues to improve.
On May 11, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce issued a statement encouraging school boards to proceed with graduations and proms subject to health and safety limitations. OPSBA President Cathy Abraham responded in an interview with the Toronto Star, noting, “schools are aware of the importance of that celebration and will find a way to do it. Don’t think that students won’t have the opportunity to walk across the stage in some way…we will find a way to make it work.”
On May 9, the government approved an emergency order that enables available school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to congregate care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and women’s shelters. Many of these congregate care settings are in need of staff such as custodial and maintenance workers. OPSBA is supportive of school boards across the province providing this opportunity for their staff to give back to their communities during this time of crisis. Each school board will decide whether they have the capacity to redeploy staff, and only those staff who volunteer will be eligible for redeployment.
OPSBA statement on voluntary redeployment
Government news release
May 11, 2020 – Ministry Memo B07: Voluntary Redeployment
Ontario Regulation 205/20: Order made under subsection 7.0.2 (4) of the Act – Education Sector
Also, OPSBA staff recently participated in a webinar hosted by UNICEF entitled, “Opening the Doors to Children and Youth: Using the new Global Framework for Reopening Schools in Child and Youth Serving Spaces.”
• May 14, 2020 Statement – Ontario Marks Children and Youth in Care Day
• May 13, 2020 Statement – Protecting Ontario’s Children with COVID-19
• May 9, 2020 News Release – Ontario Government Supporting Parents as Economy Reopens