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Ontario announces back-to-school plan to 'catch up' from pandemic

The Ontario government has released a plan to help students catch up following two years of interrupted learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan focuses primarily on getting students back in the classroom for a "full school experience,” however the Progressive Conservatives say they will also “enable the option of remote learning” for parents who feel it’s the best option for their child.

“Our plan starts with a return to in-person learning, on time, and with all the experiences students need and deserve like sports, clubs and field trips. Nothing is more important,” the document reads.

Few new details were released as to how the government plans to ensure in-person learning continues throughout the year, particularly if another wave of COVID-19 hits the province. Instead, the government touted their previous investments in ventilation improvements and HEPA filter units, the provision of rapid COVID-19 tests for staff and students and funding for parents to offset the costs of online learning.

Officials say these same measures will remain in place for the 2022-23 school year. Earlier this month, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said that rapid tests will continue to be handed out at schools and select workplaces until Dec. 31.

The plan also includes additional tutoring, funding to build new schools as well as mental health supports.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says his government remains “committed” to keeping kids in school, even in the event of another wave of COVID-19.

“We’re announcing plans to catch up today that is premised on keeping kids in school every single day, without disruption to their lives, be it from the negotiations or otherwise,” he said, referencing the bargaining process currently underway with education unions.

“We need these kids to be in school.”

Lecce’s promise that extra curricular activities remain open is largely dependent on both school boards and teachers, who mostly volunteer their time to offer sport, music and further academic programming. He said he has a “great deal of confidence” that a deal will be made with education unions that will allow school activities to resume as normal.

The education minister did not go into further detail about whether legislation will be tabled labelling education workers as essential services, a designation that would prevent certain labour actions, such as a strike for example, from taking place.

“That is our single focus over the coming months, is to land a voluntary agreement with teacher unions,” Lecce said. “It takes two to tango as you know, we need them to be at the table and many of them are, and we want them all to be there through the summer so that we can get a deal as soon as possible.”

The investments announced in Ontario’s “A Plan To Catch Up” can be found in the government’s budget, released prior to the provincial election as part of the Progressive Conservative’s platform. It includes changes to the math and science curriculum to include critical skills in finance and coding, as well as de-streamed courses in Grade 9.

The province says that about $26.6 billion has been allocated for elementary and secondary education in Ontario for the 2022-23 school year. Top Stories

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