Ontario's $300 million back-to-school plan fails to impress critics

BlackburnNews.com - Province outlines back-to-school plan

But the province's new back-to-school plan indicates that high school students at two dozen boards - including the Toronto District School Board - will only attend class half the time in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, with a maximum class size of 15.

No specific distancing requirements were announced, but Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the "aim is to provide one metre of distancing" at schools.

Sudbury's school boards - Rainbow District School Board, Sudbury Catholic District School Board, Conseil Scolaire Public du Grand Nord and Conseil Catholique Nouvelon - have all been classified as non-designated.

"It's deeply disappointing", said Marit Stiles, the Ontario NDP's education critic.

The NDP says a better solution would be to hire thousands of teachers, education workers and custodians so that every student could return to school in the fall but in smaller, safer classes.

"Restaurants, grocery stores and gyms will have more safety restrictions in place than elementary schools given the insufficient funding allocated in this plan".

All elementary students will remain in one cohort, Lecce said. We know that that students, parents/guardians and staff may be feeling anxious during these uncertain times.

Windsor-Essex public and Catholic boards say they will take the next week to finalize their plans for the new school year.

Parents will ultimately decide whether they feel it is safe for their children to return to the classroom.

For high school students, there will be class cohorts of approximately 15 students attending class on alternate days or alternate schedules. In the coming days, outreach will occur with parents/guardians to assist in understanding the number of students to be in school in September.

Students in Grades 4 through 12 must wear masks in class.

He said Ontario's plan also includes "unique elements" that other provinces have not included, such as hiring 500 registered nurses who will be embedded in schools.

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Masks and other appropriate PPE will be provided to teachers and other school staff, according to Lecce.

Education officials are to release screening protocols and detailed re-entry plans closer to the start of classes. "They're pretty excited to see their friends and ready to get back to routine", Pelletier said. They need to get out of the house.

The government had been under pressure to reopen schools full time.

Newfoundland and Labrador says it will spend $20 million to purchase laptops for teachers and students in Grades 7 through 12 to support remote learning.

There is still the option for distance learning should parents not want their children to return to school.

Days before the start of March break, the province announced it was closing schools for an additional week following the holiday.

High schools in Guelph are among those allowed to reopen under a full-attendance model in September, with in-school classes five days a week.

For high school students, plans are different, depending on the size and risk associated with the region the school board is located. Physical distancing will be enforced, although it's not clear how much.

Schools will also be asked to keep a record of classes, transported students, and visitors, so that proper contact tracing can be done by public health officials.

The province is committing $309-million towards the back-to-school plan that will including funding for PPE, additional staff and health and safety training. The plan provides $40 million for cleaning supplies and protective equipment for transportation.

"We will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure the safety of students and staff and will be prepared to transition to alternative options should circumstances change".

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