In addition to newly announced measures, the Ontario government is increasing resources and investments to support students’ return to in-person learning, including the following:
Investments in Schools
As part of the government’s response to the ongoing pandemic and the impact of the Omicron variant, Ontario has made the following investments:
Supported by over $600 million in net new investments to improve ventilation in schools:
HEPA units required in every occupied kindergarten class and in all occupied learning spaces without mechanical ventilation, including classrooms, gyms, libraries, lunchrooms, childcare spaces, administrative spaces and portables with no or poor mechanical ventilation. Additional HEPA units deployed in school learning environments in a manner that maximizes their benefit and minimizes overall transmission risks.
Bolstered Staffing Capacity
In anticipation of high rates of absenteeism, principals and vice principals in Ontario’s publicly funded school system, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the Ontario government have agreed to temporarily increase the 50-day re-employment rule to 95 days in the publicly funded school system until June 30, 2022.
In 2020-21, 11,000 retired educators returned to classrooms to fill short term sick leave. In addition, Ontario will allow temporary certification for teacher candidates, which supported approximately 1,300 teacher candidates to work within schools in 2020-2021.
The requirement for students in grades 1 to 12 to wear a cloth or medical mask remains in place and masking continues to be strongly recommended for kindergarten students.
Based on the emerging evidence of Omicron spread, the government will be providing students with expanded access to free high-quality three-ply cloth masks. In addition, education staff will be provided with the option of a non-fit-tested N95 mask. These masks meet the same National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) standards as fit-tested N95s but have not been, and are not required to be, fit-tested.
Prior to the December break, 11 million rapid antigen screening tests were distributed to all public schools to add an additional layer of protection over the holiday period. Each student was able to take home a pack of five rapid antigen tests to use over the holidays. All First Nation schools also had the opportunity to participate.
Ontario will now be deploying more rapid antigen tests to public schools and child care. This will include two rapid antigen tests for every elementary and secondary student, child in child care and staff members in both settings to support reopening, for use when symptomatic.