'We're going to get our kids back to school," Ford gov't announces back to school plan
BARRIE, ONT. -- "We're going to get our kids back to school," Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday.
Months of uncertainty and anxiety over what will happen come September for Ontario students have been building since schools closed back in March.
The wait is over.
With just six weeks before back-to-school season, the Ford Government announced most students would return to the classrooms full-time.
"We want you to know that on September 8, you can drop your child off to school, knowing every measure is in place to keep our children safe," Ford said.
Simcoe County's public school board welcomed the clarity for the fall.
"It gives us some time to prepare for September, and it's good news that our students will be back in school in September," said Dawn Stevens, Simcoe County District School Board.
Secondary students at two dozen school boards in Toronto, Peel, York, Durham, Halton, Waterloo, London, Ottawa, Hamilton, Niagara, and Windsor-Essex, are considered to be at higher risk only attend class half the time.
The government said it is investing $309 million to hire new public health nurses, custodians and cleaning supplies for school across the province.
"We will do everything to keep your child safe," added Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
All publicly-funded elementary schools will return to school five days per week for a full day of learning.
Medical professionals with SickKids hospital in Toronto recently updated its safe return to school guide, which stated that high school students should wear face masks, but they don't recommend them for younger students.
Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, the medical director of infectious diseases at McMaster University in Hamilton, says masks are not the sole line of defence against COVID-19. Pernica says masks can be distracting to younger children and can have other potential harm if not worn correctly.
The doctors went on to add that evidence is mounting that young children don't play a "significant role" in spreading COVID-19, compared to teenagers and other adults.
The province said face masks would be required and provided for educators, school staff and students in Grade 4 to Grade 12 . Younger students will not have to wear masks, except perhaps in common areas.
"We will also be supporting public health efforts by continuing to promote our screening protocols so that students and staff do not show up to school if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild," Lecce said.
In Barrie on Wednesday, parents and educators expressed mixed feelings about returning to school at a rally.
"I hear from all sorts of parents, and they're all frightened," said Rita Golds-Nikolic, SMCDSB Educational Assistant Bargaining Unit President.
"We're worried about getting the virus," admitted Kyle Tilley, an elementary school teacher and father.
For those who are uncomfortable, the government said parents have the option to send their child to in-person class or continue to learn online.
Lecce added that teachers who are immunocompromised or feel unsafe returning to class for other reasons could focus their efforts on teaching students who are opting for remote learning.
The province further announced Thursday that day-care centres across the province would be allowed to return to their full capacity on September 1, in time for back-to-school.