Ontario Government Announces New Plan For Return To School

Wednesday January 12th, 2022

Posted at 3:10pm

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The Ontario Government has announced its back to school plan for when students return to class on Monday, January 17th.

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced the launch of school-based vaccine clinics for youth and staff along with a deployment of rapid antigen tests.

“We are meeting the unique challenges presented by the Omicron variant head-on as we do everything we can to support in-person learning,” said Minister Lecce. “Our government is taking nothing for granted, which is why we are launching school-based vaccination clinics, distributing millions of rapid antigen tests and have deployed non-fit-tested N95 masks to staff and three-ply masks to students.”

The government says vaccination is the province’s best defence against the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Currently, the government says vaccination rates among children aged 12 to 17 years old are more than 82 per cent having received two doses. Of children aged five to 11 years old, nearly 50 percent have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The government is also planning on launching school-based vaccine clinics when students return to in-person learning. They say parents will receive a form offering the opportunity to safely and conveniently provide public health units the authority to vaccinate their child at a school-based vaccine clinic.

The government will also provide over 3.9 million rapid antigen tests for students and staff in public elementary and secondary schools, along with children and staff in child care settings. The use of the tests is for symptomatic individuals, who will be required to take two rapid tests 24 hours apart, and upon negative results can return to class.

These measures are also being implemented by the government:

  • High-Quality Masks: Providing access to more than 10 million non-fit-tested N95 masks to all education and child care staff – the only province to do so – with more than four million three-ply cloth masks for students recently shipped for use in schools.
  • Improved Ventilation: Deploying an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to learning environments, building on the ventilation improvement measures already in place at every school across Ontario, including the more than 70,000 HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices that have been provided and mechanical ventilation upgrades.
  • Stricter Screening: Updated and stricter screening requirements for students and staff, including daily onsite confirmation of screening.
  • Funding: School board access to $1.6 billion in resources to protect against COVID-19, including supports for mental health, technology, over 2,350 additional staff and ventilation.
  • Access to Additional Educators: Access to retired educators for a longer period of time following a recent agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, and access to first year teacher candidates who are deemed eligible.
  • Enhanced Cohorting and Cleaning: New time-limited cohorting protocols to limit direct and indirect contacts by pausing high-contact extra curricular sports, stricter lunch cohort requirements, and elevated cleaning requirements at all schools.

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