When they return to school in September, students in grades 4 to 12 will be wearing masks; elementary students will be in regular classes with no reduction in class size; and 75% of high school students will be learning online half-time.
These are the highlights of the Ontario’s plan for reopening schools in September.
Despite recommendations in a report from SickKids, the province’s plan does not include funding for smaller class sizes in elementary school, and has very little extra funding for staff such as additional teachers, guidance counsellors, social workers, psychologists and educational assistants.
Little additional funding for teaching and support staff
At the end of June, People for Education analyzed Ontario’s Grants for Student Needs for 2020/2021. We found that between 2018/19 and 2020/21, overall funding for education increased by 3.6%. When increases in enrolment (2%), salaries (1%), and inflation (1.6%) are factored in, the result was a net loss of 1%.
The province has announced some new funding for COVID-related resources, but the majority of the funding will cover increased costs for health and safety:
$75 million for additional school custodians and enhanced cleaning supplies
$60 million for Masks and personal protective equipment
$50 million for up to 500 nurses to support boards with screening, testing, and managing COVID-related issues.
$40 million for cleaning for school buses and personal protective equipment (PPE) for bus drivers
$30 million for approximately 346 teaching postions
$23.6 million for COVID testing
$10 million for supports for students with special education needs
$10 million for health and safety training for school-based staff
$10 million for mental health supports
The lack of funding for additional staff signifies an intention to attempt to maintain as much of the status quo as possible. The result is regular class sizes in elementary schools; more than 400,000 students learning online with little extra support, and no extra funding for support staff such as Child and Youth Workers, Social Workers or Educational Assistants to support students who may struggle.