Ontario Makes Additional Investments to Keep Students & Staff Safe

To continue keeping schools safe from COVID-19, the Ontario Government is investing an additional $381 million provided by the federal Safe Return to Class Fund. Although transmission in schools has been low, this funding will be used to improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health and hire more staff.

Additional Funding for Ventilation, Health and Safety and Student Transportation

DSB Name

Allocation for Improving Air Quality & Ventilation

 Allocation for Health & Safety

 Allocation for Student Transportation

Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB

$ 882,200

$ 1,042,678

$ 106,851

Trillium Lakelands DSB

$ 532,000

$ 515,446

$ 73,882

 

Additional Funding for Technological Devices

DSB Board Name

Allocation

Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB

$1,284,398

Trillium Lakelands DSB

$600,787

*Other boards that serve students in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock are also receiving new funding.

With this additional funding, Ontario is providing more than $1.6 billion to better protect students, staff and families.

“Having students return to in-person learning is essential to the wellbeing, development and mental health of children,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. “That’s why we are strengthening health and safety measures and providing additional funding to help students remain in the classroom.”

As more students return to in-person learning, Ontario, on the best advice of experts, is introducing additional measures to further protect students and staff, including:

  • Provincewide access to targeted asymptomatic testing for students and staff, using a combination of lab-processed PCR and rapid antigen tests;
  • Mandatory masking for students in Grades 1-3, including outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained;
  • Enhanced screening of secondary students and staff;
  • New guidance discouraging students from congregating before and after; and
  • Temporary certification of eligible teacher candidates who are set to graduate in 2021 to stabilize staffing levels, following high levels of absenteeism.

“To protect Ontario students and staff, and with the aim of reopening all schools, we have again strengthened our plan with tougher measures and new investments,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We agree with parents and medical experts that kids need to be learning in class – alongside their friends and teachers – as it is crucial for their mental well-being and development. We will continue to follow expert medical advice and work to get all schools open, for children in all regions of our province.”

Ontario’s plan to safely reopen schools draws on the advice of leading health experts and the best available data. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and leading medical and scientific experts, including the Hospital for Sick Children, support the safe return to in-person learning for students and staff and are encouraged by Ontario’s experience in safely reopening schools in September. This was evidenced in the data on COVID-19 cases in schools during the Fall, at a time of lower community transmission.

Targeted asymptomatic testing has helped to identify cases early, inform public health action, and manage outbreaks. Expanding access to targeted asymptomatic testing will be a valuable tool for local public health units and schools. To support the expansion of targeted asymptomatic testing, the Ministry of Education has procured test collection capacity for up to 50,000 tests per week, to be deployed at the discretion of local public health units in collaboration with schools.

To address labour needs and high rates of staff absenteeism, the Ministry of Education has worked with the Ontario College of Teachers to introduce a new temporary certificate to help stabilize staffing levels in our schools. This will allow school boards to employ eligible teacher candidates when there are no occasional teachers available from their current lists. With this important change, we are helping schools with operational challenges to remain open. This decision underscores the shortage of available certified teachers in the province, following the hiring of over 3,400 net new temporary teaching positions.

QUICK FACTS

  • To date, Ontario has supported:
    • the hiring of 3400 teachers (with an additional 800 projected to be hired);
    • the hiring of 1400 custodians (with an additional 400 projected to be hired);
    • the hiring of over 500 principals, vice-principals and admin staff to support new virtual schools;
    • the hiring of up to 650 educational assistants, mental health workers and professionals to provide special education and mental health supports; and
    • the purchase of over 23,000 HEPA filters and 20,000 portable HEPA units, and nearly 3,000 other ventilation devices.
  • On January 12, 2021, the Ontario government declared a second provincial emergency order to address the COVID-19 crisis, with enhanced enforcement measures.
  • The COVID-19 resources provided to school boards to support safe and healthy learning environments are in addition to the landmark investment of over $25.5 billion in education, which represents an increase of over $700 million for the 2020-21 school year.
  • In recognition of the additional costs facing many families during this period, Ontario is providing support through an expanded Support for Learners Since the start of the pandemic, Ontario has allocated nearly $900 million in direct financial support to families. Applications under the Support for Learners program close on February 8, 2021.
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has invested more than $42.5 million in student mental health, including an additional $10 million announced on January 20, 2021, to respond to the extension of virtual learning.
  • The federal Safe Return to Class Fund is providing funding in two phases. The first installment of $381 million, as announced on August 26, 2020, is being used to support a number of priority provincial initiatives related to the safe reopening of schools. The allocations are proposed by Ontario but require federal approval.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.