Editorial – After a beautiful Ontario summer, this September, parents will again drop their kids off at the bus stop or see their children off on the first day of school. That day any year is not easy for parents and we all know this fall it may be tougher for some families.
I want to assure parents that their government is doing everything we can to keep our children safe and to keep them learning. While Ontario has made tremendous progress to flatten the curve, we all know that our collective actions today will have a direct impact on learning tomorrow.
That is why we undertook a serious consultation with Canada’s leading paediatric experts. What they told us is that layers of prevention – a wide range of safety measures – will help prevent the spread.
Our plan has been fully endorsed by Ontario’s top doctor – Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health – who has said he would not sign off on this plan if it was not comprehensive and safe for our students and staff.
It continues to be disappointing that teacher unions are attempting to instill worry in already anxious parents. I want to work with our front-line educators, school boards, and
parents to ensure our schools are safe. We need collaboration and cooperation, not never-ending opposition. This is not the time to relitigate collective bargaining issues of the past, certainly not during a pandemic and economic recession.
Ontario has a plan that leads the nation in multiple aspects. We have the safest, most comprehensive and most cautious plan in the country.
We are spending more than any province. $75 million for enhanced cleaning including the hiring of 1300 cleaning staff and providing additional cleaning supplies.
We have increased funding for student mental health, increased access to technology, enhanced cleaning of our school buses and are providing investments to upgrade the HVAC systems and air quality in our schools.
We also have the most comprehensive masking policy, and we were the first province to require masks in the classroom for all students in Grades 4-12.
And we are the only province hiring 500 public health nurses to support testing and screening in our schools.
To protect students, we are continuing to fund the lowest class sizes in Canada for children in the earliest grades. As added protection, we are cohorting students, staggering the start of school, and we have changed the way schools operate – from altered bus and school start times, to a new way of timetabling for our students, all with one aim: minimize contact and maximize safety.
The province unlocked nearly $500 million for school boards to hire more teachers and ensure more physical distancing.
For the parents that opt into remote learning for their children, Ontario stands alone in having a fully funded live, remote “Zoom-style” learning system. Over the summer we have dramatically improved from the version used last spring and I have issued a directive to school boards to ensure that the majority of your child’s remote learning happens in real time with an Ontario teacher – teachers that are world class.
We are working around the clock to protect Ontario’s next generation. To do that right, we must be responsive to the emerging scientific evidence.
We all have skin in the game. Our own families learn and teach in our publicly funded schools. The Premier, this government, and I will not rest until we do everything possible to support quality learning and safe schools.
Together, we are confident that our students will learn safely, and our province will emerge stronger because of it.
MPP for King-Vaughan
Minister of Education