Ontario Government Releases Guidance For Return Of In-Person Classes

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The Ontario government has outlined COVID-19 guidance for all schools in an effort to restore in-person classes at all boards.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the delivery of education in Ontario and across the globe over the past two school years,” a 29-page document issued to school boards and institutions across Ontario said.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students differently, there are key themes emerging including the need to focus on student mental health and well-being, supports for early reading and math and the re-engagement of students.”

The Ministry of Education released a 26-page document Tuesday afternoon that will guide the return to the classroom in September.

The document lays out a plan for both elementary and secondary students to return to school full-time, unless they opt to participate in remote learning which will continue to be made available by school boards.

The release of the plan comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Ontario and public health officials express concerns about a potential fourth wave triggered by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant among unvaccinated populations.

Masks will be mandatory for all students between Grade 1 and Grade 12, and will remain optional – but recommended – for children in kindergarten. They are not required outdoors.

In the plan, the government said school boards must be prepared for a potential closure and have plans in place so all students can pivot to remote learning if the COVID-19 situation worsens.

Students in kindergarten though to Grade 8 will remain in one cohort for the full day with one teacher, the government says.

Members of different cohorts will be allowed to interact outside, with distancing encouraged, or inside with distancing and masks, the government says.
Elementary school students will be allowed to use common spaces like libraries and cafeterias.

Specialized education staff, like French teachers, are permitted to go into different classrooms and multiple schools where necessary.
While secondary students will be returning to the classroom for the full duration of the day, school boards have been instructed to timetable students with no more than two courses at a time for the fall semester.

The government says this will allow them the option to revert more easily to restrictive measures if that becomes necessary.

Exceptions to the two-course rule may be made for small schools where contacts can be limited by cohorting grades, the government says.

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