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Ontario schools closed till end of this school year

Toronto: The Ontario government yesterday said it is keeping schools closed for the rest of this school year to protect the health and safety of students during the Covid-19 outbreak.

All students who were on track to graduate from secondary school before the initial school closure order was made in March will be able to graduate, and all students will receive report cards.

This decision was made after consulting with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, health experts on the Covid-19 Command Table, and medical experts at The Hospital for Sick Children, said a provincial media release.

It said the government is planning to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year, the gradual reopening of child care, and the opening of summer day camps subject to the continuing progress in trends of key public health indicators.

“Nothing is more important than protecting our kids in this province, bar none over anything,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Today’s announcement gives parents certainty, knowing that their children can continue to learn safely at home and that we have a plan for child care as we work to gradually reopen more of our economy, when it is safe to do so.”

In-class instruction for 2020-21 school year

Later this summer, the government will announce a plan to strengthen learning and safety protocols to enable students and staff to return to in-class instruction for the 2020-21 school year. That plan will be bolstered by an enhanced province-wide virtual learning program that will allow all students to learn, regardless of the challenges that may transpire in the coming months.

Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed for the safety and protection of children, families and staff through Stage 1 of the Framework for Reopening the Province. Emergency child care will continue to operate and provide support for health care and other frontline workers.

Child Care: A gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 based on public health criteria, which will include robust safety protocols for the safety of Ontario’s youngest learners and their staff, the release said.

Summer Day Camps: Assuming trends in key public health indicators continue to improve, summer day camps, both indoor and outdoor, may be permitted in July and August of this year with strict health and safety guidelines to be developed in partnership with local public health, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and municipalities. Overnight camps will not be permitted to operate in the summer of 2020.

Summer Learning Plan: The province also unveiled an expanded seven-point summer learning plan to ensure Ontario students have every opportunity to continue their learning through the summer months. Summer learning programs are being expanded to reach the most students in Ontario history, to ensure they remain on track to start the 2020-21 school year with the confidence and knowledge required to succeed.

Home Learning: To support at-home learning, the government is leveraging all tools, resources, technologies and services to assist school boards deliver equitable and effective learning through access to technology and Internet connectivity, especially for students in rural and remote parts of Ontario. To help improve access to remote learning, Ontario is partnering with 34 organizations and private businesses, along with school boards, to address key needs among educators, students and their families during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ontario has worked to identify and make available low-cost, high-impact solutions that can significantly improve the Learn at Home experience now and into the future. Access to digital learning resources, supports for special education needs and mental health, as well as Internet connectivity and access to devices have all been identified by school boards and other stakeholders as urgent needs during the current school closure period. These organizations and businesses were identified through a call for proposals on the Ontario Together website between March 31, 2020 and April 21, 2020, the release said.

Ontario extends Emergency Orders

The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has extended all emergency orders currently in force until May 29, 2020. That includes the closure of bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery only, restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people, and staff redeployment rules for long-term care homes and congregate settings like retirement homes and women’s shelters. The government is also allowing drive-in religious gatherings.

Yesterday, the province officially entered the first stage of its Framework for Reopening the Province. As part of this initial stage, the government is permitting the reopening of some outdoor recreational amenities, including outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields, off-leash dog areas, and outdoor picnic sites, benches and shelters in parks and recreational areas, effective as of Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, fitness equipment, public swimming pools, splash pads and similar outdoor water facilities will remain closed until later stages of the province’s reopening plan.

In addition, the government has approved an exemption to the emergency order related to gatherings to allow Ontarians to attend drive-in religious gatherings, under certain conditions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The conditions include keeping vehicles two metres or more apart, only members of the same household can be in one vehicle, people will not be able to leave their vehicles, and no more than five people can conduct the service at one time from outside a motor vehicle and they must stay at least two metres apart.

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