Earlier today, our government announced the details of how we will prevent and minimize COVID outbreaks in our schools and keep our kids safe. Money will be going towards personal protective equipment PPEenhanced cleaning of our schools and buses, improving ventilation, and hiring more cleaning and teaching staff. By sticking together and by following public health directives, we will overcome this difficulty with hope, unity, and optimism. We will continue to deliver support to families during this pandemic. As Premier Ford has said many times, our priority remains keeping schools safe and open for in-class instruction because learning is critical to the continued development and mental health of our children.
This includes child care offered in d child care centres, in d home child care, in extended day programs, and by authorized recreational and skill-building providers.
Starting on January 11,families with students aged 13 to grade 12 can apply for a one-time payment for their children up until February 8, The expanded program will now cover:. We know some students with special education needs cannot be supported through remote learning. I want to reiterate, that as you and people you know receive the vaccine, it is important that everyone continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing when outside of their immediate household. Now, while leading medical experts have been clear that schools are not a source of rising community transmission, we can and will be an important part of the solution to save lives from COVID That is why we are following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health by taking proactive and preventative action to protect schools following the holiday break.
Yet, through the greatest challenges we faced, our province — most especially inspired by our students, parents and education staff — came together. This pandemic has impacted every corner of our province.
I am therefore asking you all to continue to lead by example by strictly following the rulesincluding taking a zero-tolerance approach to congregating with those outside your household. Ontario's Ministry of Health has created a fact sheet with more advice on staying safe after you have been vaccinated. I am appealing to every one of you — recognizing the fatigue many have after more than a year of sacrifice — to remain vigilant. As more and more people get vaccinated, I am confident that Ontario will defeat this pandemic, so long as we remain united in our resolve to listen to public health advice, follow safety protocols and support each other.
School Mental Health Ontario has developed a variety of online mental health resources for parents and families that can help support your child. Ontario stands alone in creating a comprehensive online learning management system that ensures teachers can engage students in live, synchronous learning, send and receive asments, and participate in discussions in a secure environment. With appropriate public health and safety measures in place, Dr. In fact, Ontario has one of the lowest case rates for young people under 19 years old in Canada.
Our comprehensive plan for reopening schools le the country in robust public health protocols and per-pupil funding.
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COVID has impacted every aspect of our society, but we recognize that the pandemic has been particularly challenging for parents with school-age children. Ontario is now in Step Three of the Roadmap to Reopen. That is why I have directed school boards to provide for in-person learning for these exceptional cases, ensuring these children receive consistency and full supports through this difficult period.
I remain optimistic that will be a better year with the vaccine coming online.
We believe so strongly that schools are essential to the well-being, mental health and development ofand therefore, must be safeguarded at all costs to ensure they can remain open for safe in-class instruction. This has been a uniquely challenging period — it has been accompanied by feelings of anxiety, isolation, and anguish. As we face rising case s, the government announced a Provincewide Shutdown that put in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures to help ensure our schools remain safe, to stop the spread of COVID transmission in communities, and to save lives.
During the provincial emergency brake and the provincial stay-at-home order, all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools will remain open for in-person learning with strict health and safety measures in place, except in those regions where local public health units have directed schools in their areas to pivot to remote learning. Our government will work to ensure our schools are safe for in-person learning, while increasing financial support to families during this global pandemic. Your children are Ontario's greatest strength and source of inspiration.
While supply remains a challenge, as of April 12,eligible education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in select hot spot areasstarting in Toronto and Peel, will be eligible to register for vaccination.
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Follow the restrictions and public health measures. And I assure you — we will continue to work together and work around the clock to protect your child, their learning experience, and safety. Students are looking to all of us — parents, educators, school boards and government — to instill confidence in their hearts. We are also adopting additional public health protocols for our schools, such as the hiring of up to public health nurses, an aggressive mandatory masking policy for gradesand a surveillance testing strategy on our secondary school students.
We also recognize parents have faced hardship.
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To best protect education staff and students, we are accelerating access to the vaccine. That is why, since the beginning of the pandemic, our government has stepped up to provide Ontario families with direct financial support. Those supports continue to be available to students at this critical time, both in-person and remotely.
The trends are worrisome and the case s are rising. This is due to Ontario parents leading by example by following the rules, as well as a comprehensive safety plan that has ensured that more than 99 per cent of students and staff do not have an active case of COVID In fact, since September, With that said, we are not taking anything for granted. To access these mental health resources, please visit www. It is for them that we must continue to work together to save lives, to protect our communities, and ensure students can return to class, where they belong.
I am pleased to remind you that we are now increasing that support by doubling the next round of payments to parents through the Ontario COVID Child Benefit. In response to the needs of frontline health and emergency workers who have school-aged children and may require support during this period, we are implementing a targeted emergency child care program, at no cost to eligible parents, from January 4 to 8, The province has experienced a safe reopening because we developed a comprehensive, nation-leading plan in partnership with experts in the medical community.
For that reason, I'm pleased to confirm to parents that our government is again providing direct payments to parents, as part of the expanded Ontario COVID Child Benefit.
Our government has made every effort to prepare for schools transitioning temporarily to remote learning. Starting April 26, these payments will be provided automatically to parents who received Support for Learners payments. Thank you for your dedication. As our province's fight against COVID continues and April break begins, I want to take this opportunity to update you on the Ontario government's efforts to keep schools safe and open. As part of these new restrictions, elementary and secondary school students across the province will learn remotely for the first week of January, as everyone can play a part in staying home and stopping the spread of COVID Recognizing the importance of in-person learning, students will return to class across the province in January:.
When I say that the health and safety of our kids is my top priority, I am also thinking of their mental health. There is no question that Ontarians have shown incredible fortitude and determination throughout this pandemic. We are also expanding this program to include financial supports for Ontario CA aged and dating again school students, recognizing added costs from technology to internet for these parents while their kids stay home for a longer period.
To ensure a safe return from April break, we are adding additional layers of protection, including:. Under the Ontario government's plan, expanded access to asymptomatic testing is available for students and staff at pharmacies that offer testing and in assessment centres across the province for the week of April 12 to 18, Children attending child care, and child care staff, will also be eligible to access this testing. We believe these measures are essential to ensure a successful return to our classrooms. It has been a trying year for all Ontarians.
Nothing matters more. We are committed to their safety and success. We are committed to ensuring the return to school is safe for students, teachers and staff. Our strength through this pandemic has been the resilience of our students, hard work of our staff, collaboration with parents, and commitment of government to step up our response every step of the way. It has been a difficult period, filled with unexpected challenges and financial pressures. I also want to express my heartfelt thanks for the incredible strength and resilience shown by our students, education staff, and your families during this challenging period.
This doubles the payments in the last round under the Support for Learners program. To ensure a better learning experience, every teacher in this province received mandatory training on remote learning, before the school year began. Those services will continue while students learn from home. The priority right now remains the health of your child, which is why we want to make clear the expanded mental health supports are available.
We are supporting student mental health in many ways, including by more than doubling funding to hire more psychologists, psychotherapists and mental health workers in schools. To ensure our schools remain safe in January and beyond, we will continue and enhance testing in schools and allocate a new and ificant investment in school safety, including in enhanced air quality, more PPEand additional staffing and cleaning.
We have also prepared for this by supporting the purchase of overnew devices for students to support remote learning, and over 8, connectivity devices for students unable to access internet at home.
Elementary and secondary students currently enrolled in remote learning will continue to learn remotely throughout January. We will do whatever it takes to ensure our kids can continue to learn. While child care will remain open for the duration of these time-limited public health actions, we are enhancing the already strict screening requirements and safety protocols to ensure they remain safe places for your children. We continue to meet regularly with our Parent Involvement Committee Chairs and board le responsible for parent engagement to hear of successes, challenges, and anticipated needs.
Learning from home means extra costs for many families.
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We cannot be complacent, because if we let our guard down, school safety can be compromised. Parents who received Support for Learners payments will automatically receive the new benefit starting April 26, Parents who did not apply for or receive the Support for Learners program can apply for the new funding starting May 3 to May The Ontario government remains steadfast in its commitment to do everything it can to fight COVID, ensure the safety of our students and staff, and lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery.
To demonstrate a collective resolve to win this battle against this invisible global threat. Unified in our effort to stop the spread and save lives.