"This plan is now giving us the flexibility to expand voluntary testing and provide additional funding to support all of our school boards in priority communities"
Ontario and Prince Edward Island have announced separate additional safety measures to protect school workers from COVID-19.
Ontario announced it is providing $13.6 million to enable school boards to hire more teachers and staff in regions recently moved to the Red-Control level and providing stabilization funding for school boards, if needed. The province is also expanding testing in school communities and launching new online learning portals.
“Ensuring the safety of students, teachers and staff is our government's top priority. That's why we developed the most robust and comprehensive plan in the country to safely reopen schools,” said Premier Doug Ford. “This plan is now giving us the flexibility to expand voluntary testing and provide additional funding to support all of our school boards in priority communities.”
The province is providing the funding to school boards in Durham, Halton, Hamilton and Waterloo Region in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases in these communities. The funding will further enhance safety by: promoting physical distancing with the hiring of more teachers and staff; increasing remote learning supports; and improving cleanliness with the hiring of additional custodians. This funding builds on the $35 million in extra supports provided for schools in Toronto, Peel, York, and Ottawa regions back in October.
This funding is part of the government's comprehensive $1.3 billion plan to safely reopen classrooms across the province, including additional resources to help school boards hire more staff, keep class sizes low, and enhance cleaning in schools.
Ontario is also launching targeted voluntary testing of asymptomatic students and staff in regions of the province which currently have a high number of active COVID-19 cases. The Ministry of Education, along with the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health, are currently working with participating school boards and local public health units to support implementation.
Meanwhile, P.E.I. is requiring staff and students in grades 10 to 12 to wear non-medical masks at all times, effective Nov. 30.
“As the second wave continues to be felt across the country including our neighbouring provinces, now is the time to increase precautions to help maintain the health and safety of our island communities,” said Brad Trivers, minister of education and lifelong learning. “Physical distancing and cohorting are a concern at the high school level so we are taking these additional measures to be proactive. We will continue to adjust our back to school plans as necessary to ensure a successful and safe school year for students and staff.”
Masks can only be taken off when:
- staff and students are able to physically distance within a classroom (6ft/2m);
- eating or drinking;
- participating in a physical activity (e.g. gym);
- engaging in an activity which prevents them from doing so (e.g. playing a wind instrument);
- it poses a safety concern (e.g. welding); or
- a school assesses wearing a non-medical mask is not in the best interest of a student due to physical, medical or other factors.
Additionally, all visitors to schools, k-12, are required to wear masks at all times while indoors.
The government said that wearing a facial covering/non-medical mask in the community is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. However, it can be an additional measure you can take to protect others around you, even if you have no symptoms.
In August, Unifor school bus driver members called on the Ontario government to implement standardized COVID-19 safety protocols to protect both themselves and the students on board.
In September, the federal government has invested $763.34 million in support for Ontario through the Safe Return to Class Fund to provide the funding they need as they work alongside local school boards to ensure the safety of students and staff members throughout the school year.