Ontario Minister of Education to face questions over new back-to-school plan



Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce is scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the province’s recently released back-to-school plan for the upcoming school year.

According to his office, Lecce will be joined by Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, at the 11 a.m. ET event in Thornhill. You can watch it live in this story.

On Tuesday afternoon, the provincial government released its long-awaited plan for a return to in-person learning in September, just five weeks from the start of classes in most Ontario schools.

Students will be able to play in sports teams, use instruments in music lessons, go out on the field and throw masks outside, even if the distance cannot be maintained.

Extracurricular activities can resume and there will be relaxed rules on the use of shared spaces such as libraries and cafeterias. Students of grade 1 and up will be required to wear masks indoors.

Students will attend in person for full days, five days a week – unless they have opted for distance learning – and high school students will have schedules with no more than two lessons at a time.

A student at a Toronto elementary school wears full PPE before heading to class last September. Students will continue to wear masks inside classrooms as part of Ontario’s new plan. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

However, the 29-page document contains few details on how schools will handle COVID-19 cases and outbreaks. The document suggests that further guidance will be available soon.

Its post was greeted with cautious optimism by some educators and health professionals, while others said it lacked critical information, such as conditions that would require a school to be temporarily closed in the in-person learning.

Dr Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician at Humber River and Sunnybrook hospitals in Toronto and founder of Masks 4 Canada, said he would classify the government’s plan as a “solid C + or B-“.

Pirzada said it compares favorably with what other provinces have proposed, but lacks critical details on testing and outbreak management that could be critical if there was a fourth wave driven by the highly infectious delta variant.

Ontario has not made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for educators and school staff, and children under 12 are still ineligible to be vaccinated.


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