The Ontario government will outline on Friday three scenarios for the reopening of schools in the fall, including a rotating schedule that would allow a maximum of 15 students in a classroom on a single day.
Sources told The Globe and Mail that the government would make a final decision in early August on what schooling would look like for the province’s two million students in September. The plan could also be decided regionally based on local public-health advice, the sources said. The Globe is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
The three scenarios that will be announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce on Friday are continued remote learning, a full return to in-school learning with health and safety guidelines, or a hybrid-learning model with health measures. The last option would see students in school buildings for part of the time. The three scenarios are similar to those announced by Alberta’s Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
Students in Ontario have been learning at home since March break. Schools in some parts of the country, including British Columbia and Quebec, started reopening their doors in the past few weeks, but attendance has been optional.
The Ontario government has received advice and recommendations from various education groups, teachers’ unions, as well as medical professionals on how to reopen elementary and high schools. An expert group from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children released its recommendations to the government this week and advised it to reopen schools. The group said that while physical distancing should be adhered to inside – desks should be separated and assemblies banned – children should be allowed to play together outside.
Sources told The Globe that the hybrid model would involve physical distancing and cohorting of smaller learning groups. The government would allow school boards to develop plans locally to determine school attendance, which means that students could be in the classroom every alternate day or alternate week. The government would re-evaluate this option, if it were to be chosen, as public-health advice continues to evolve, sources said.
The government is expected to announce that where physical distancing in school cannot be maintained, some staff would wear masks. The ministry of education would help school boards secure personal protective equipment, sources said. Public-health experts have noted that the focus needs to be on hand washing and that masks are generally not recommended for children in schools.
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