TORONTO: Ontario has unveiled its plan to reopen schools across the province, announcing that elementary school students and many high school students will return to the classroom full-time in September.
Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce released the plan on Thursday, just six weeks before the start of the new school year.
Two million students have been out of the classroom in Ontario at 4,800 publicly-funded schools since March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the province.
Elementary school children in kindergarten through to Grade 8 will return to school five days per week across Ontario for a full day, which includes recess and lunch, with no changes to class sizes.
Non-medical masks will be mandatory for students in Grade 4 to Grade 12. Students in kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks in common spaces.
Students will be with one cohort for the full day and enhanced health and safety protocols will be put in place.
Teachers will provide the full range of the elementary curriculum, the government said.
Students can expect to see changes in the timing of recesses, lunches, and bathroom breaks as they are staggered to support cohorting.
Specialized teachers, like French teachers, will still be able to go into classrooms to provide programming for students.
Secondary schools in designated boards will open on an adapted model, with class cohorts of approximately 15 students.
Those students will attend class on alternate days or alternate schedules that would represent in-person attendance for at least 50 per cent of instructional days.
The remaining school boards in Ontario will be allowed to reopen for classes five days per week with full attendance. The province noted that secondary schools in these boards “typically have small enrollment.”
Medical masks will be provided for teachers and all other school staff.
Schools will implement additional hand hygiene, cohorting, and distancing. They will also limit visitors in schools and will require pre-registration for guests.
Parents are allowed to decide whether their child returns to school in-person this September. Students will have the option of remote learning, which would be delivered by the school board.
School staff will receive training on processes and procedures.