Are Ontario Schools Reopening this September 2020?
During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, many are wondering if schools will be opening this September or if it is safe for their child to go back to school once they have opened. This blog post will answer some of your concerns and include what officials have to say about the flexibility of decreasing class sizes if necessary.
What is happening this September?
According to the Government of Ontario, schools are reopening, giving parents the option to send their kids back to school. They are working with the Toronto District School Board and public health experts to develop a plan to ensure that the health and safety of students and staff are number 1 priority.
Parents of elementary school kids (Kindergarten to Grade 8) will have the option to either send their kids back for in class instruction or have them learn online. With this, those in elementary school will not be guaranteed physical distancing and class sizes will be capped at the average class size before the pandemic began. High school students (Grades 9 to 12) in all boards of the GTA will be required to attend class on alternating dates, limiting class sizes to 15 students. Additionally, students from grade 4 to 12 and all school staff will be required to wear a mask.
Ultimately, it would be the parent’s decision on whether or not they feel comfortable to send their kids back to school or continue learning remotely.
"It's been hard on families to balance work and child care, while kids have been separated from friends and other kids their own age. We want to get our kids back to school, but it has to be done safely, That's why we've worked with our public health experts, Ontario Health and the medical experts at SickKids to develop a plan that ensures students can return to the classroom five days a week in a way that protects the health and safety of our children, teachers, and school staff." - Doug Ford, Premier
Precautions being taken in Ontario schools
Given the advice from the best medical advice available, additional health protocols will be implemented for the safety of students and staff. The government will be investing over $300 million worth of safety precautions that will include:
Free medical and cloth masks given to staff and students
The hiring of numerous teachers to keep class sizes smaller
The hiring of up to 500 additional school focused nurses in public health units where they will be the rapid response support, facilitating public health and preventative measures
Provide testing capacity to help keep schools safe
The hiring of 900 additional custodians to purchase cleaning supplies for schools such as soap and hand sanitizers
Cleanliness of school buses to ensure students are in a cleaned transportation environment
Health and safety training for occasional teachers who have historically not been covered by professional development that is offered to permanent teachers
Support special needs students in the classroom
Support student mental health
Response from Ontario’s Education Minister on concerns about smaller class sizes
Question from Hailey Cooper: “Given the constant drum beat of serious concerns about class sizes, will you commit to revisiting your plan on smaller class sizes right now?”
Minister Lecce, Ontario Education Minister: "While this plan will continue to evolve to respond to the changing threat of COVID-19, we will remain constant and consistent in investing in the resources, staffing, and cleaning supports, and strict health and safety protocols to keep our communities and our classrooms safe."
Teacher opinion on reopening Ontario schools this September
“It's been a struggle not being able to plan for the fall, while knowing if students do go back, her classroom won't be as interactive and teachers can't be as involved due to physical distancing. In an effort to stay safe, she plans on doing more outdoor learning, having all desks face the same way and avoiding the use of shared items among students. She'd like smaller class sizes, personal protective equipment (PPE) distributed and a backup plan if staff call in sick.” - Vickita Bhatt, Grade 7 teacher in Brampton
Parent opinion on reopening Ontario schools this September
“Jessica Lyons, a nurse and mother of three, says she hopes to send her kids back to school full-time, but would like to see the same protocols Bhatt is calling for before she would feel confident in doing so.”
"What we're really, really concerned about, and watching closely is what those numbers are doing and how the government is able to actually implement effective measures, I don't want to be in a position to choose whether I can keep my job or send my kids to an unsafe learning environment. It feels like we're under a lot of duress." she said.
“I find it weird that the universities, that have the older kids, are staying closed for health and safety, yet elementary schools which houses our most vulnerable are opening.” - Karen Gravelle, Parent and Educator
There are rising concerns on whether the government’s plan to implement safety protocols are enough, putting a large impact on parents that need to try to keep their job. Ontario workers have lost over 2.2 million jobs and are under an immense amount of stress. Being able to comfortably know that their children will be safe will put many parents at ease.
Now knowing the government’s plan on reopening schools and the precautions being put in place, are you comfortable sending your kids back to school this September? How do you feel about the class sizes and the no guarantee of physical distancing for elementary schools?