“Following extensive discussions with the government and internal consultations with our members over the past few months, OPSBA provided a submission to the Ministry of Education with our feedback and comments about a return to school plan. It was encouraging to see that most of our concerns have been addressed in the framework released today by the government.
School boards have been represented on numerous stakeholder working teams throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure any plans for reopening take into account the realities of the day-to-day workings of schools. Expert school board staff have been involved in reviewing and considering operational details, and will continue to develop re-entry plans that ensure staff and student safety, while at the same time following revised protocols.
It’s reassuring to see that the reopening plan includes room for local and regional flexibility, as some schools or school boards may be able to return to full capacity sooner than others. We encourage the government to continue to communicate with stakeholders in a timely way. We look forward to working with the government to ensure that our school communities understand the new procedures and protocols that will be in place in September. We will be reviewing the plan with our members and sharing additional feedback as necessary. We know the ministry agrees that ensuring our students, staff and school communities feel safe in returning to school is of utmost importance.
The pandemic has highlighted how central and stabilizing the school system is to our communities, children, youth and their families. Working with provincial and local public health authorities, the public education system was able to pivot fairly quickly to the impact of the pandemic, implementing recommendations and policies allowing for remote learning to occur for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12. We are extremely proud of the monumental work done by our teachers, education workers and school board staff who have done their very best to provide continued learning opportunities and support for their students.
In regard to the Grants for Student Needs, the additional investment of $250 per student, bringing the per-pupil funding amount to $12,525 for the 2020-21 school year, is welcomed, particularly the focus on important items such as mental health, technology, capital funding and Special Education.
However, given the possibility that additional unexpected expenses may arise as we move through the uncertain and constantly changing pandemic situation, we look forward to an ongoing dialogue with the government to ensure that school boards have the funding they need to keep our schools safe while continuing to provide the excellent education that our students deserve.
We are pleased to see this important funding information shared with school boards as they discuss and finalize their local budget plans. We will continue to review the many parts of the GSN over the coming days.”
Cathy Abraham, OPSBA President