By Toby Barrett, MPP
Covid-19 has been one of our greatest challenges. We are all touched by it. Although older people are more vulnerable, children are at risk and must be protected. But, moving forward, they must be protected and educated. The Ontario government is maintaining the flexibility to do what’s needed to maximize the learning experience while putting public health first.
Since March, using advice from top medical experts and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, this government has worked hard to communicate, adapt, and develop strategies to educate and inform parents, and protect students, teachers, and support staff.
On March 20, the Ministry of Education unveiled the Learn at Home web portal, which provides families and students with key online learning resources for all subjects and grades.
Our goal of safely reopening schools and respecting parental choice continued on June 19, when we released a reopening guidance plan to school boards and asked for their upcoming school year restart plans. On the same day, the Ontario government announced $736 million more for the 2020-21 school year, increasing the total to more than $25.5 billion. This funding, through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program, represents the largest public education investment in Ontario’s history. Our average per-pupil funding has reached $12,525, an increase of $250 over the previous year.
Under the GSN, the new $213 million student-centric Supports for Students Fund (SSF) will support special education, mental health and well-being, language instruction, Indigenous education, and STEM programming.
On July 30, the government issued the Guide to Reopening Ontario’s Schools. This committed over $300 million to support a safe reopening of Ontario’s schools. The guide provides a baseline to which the school boards are encouraged to adapt to meet local needs.
On August 7, with the federal government, we provided $234.6 million to keep children and staff safe in child care and early years settings. This will help support enhanced cleaning, health and safety requirements, and the reopening of licensed child care and early years programs.
Please note parents and guardians have until August 31, 2020 to apply for Support for Families. Under this program, parents or guardians of children between 0-12 years old, or up to 21 years old for children and youth with special needs, are eligible for a one-time payment, per child, to purchase educational materials to support learning at home.
Minister Lecce recently announced more than $500 million for school boards to ensure schools will reopen safely in September. This will enable more physical distancing in classrooms, direct funding to utilize non-school community spaces, and allow boards to make needs-based adjustments.
The government has been flexible and does what’s required to respect parents and students while putting public health first. We now lead the nation in many ways:
- Total funding at five times the per-pupil amount of the BC government
- The highest amount of funding for cleaning
- The most comprehensive masking policy, and the only province to require masks in the classroom at all times for all students and staff in Grade 4-12
- The only province hiring public health nurses to support student health in schools, dedicating funding toward student mental health, with a testing strategy and dollars behind it, and dedicating funding towards health and safety training for staff.
For local school board information, go to:
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk