The kids are going back to school in Ontario – What you need to know about the recent “enhanced safety measures”

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

All Public Health Units other than Peel region’s, York region’s and Toronto Public Health units (PHU’s) are returning to in-person learning. They will be returning on Monday, February 8th, 2021.

If you fall under the designation of the following PHU’s – your child will be returning to in-person learning;

  • Brant County Health Unit
  • Chatham-Kent Public Health
  • Durham Region Health Department
  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
  • Halton Region Public Health
  • City of Hamilton Public Health Services
  • Huron Perth Public Health
  • Lambton Public Health
  • Niagara Region Public Health
  • Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
  • Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

The new measures the province has introduced

The press release provided by the province said to ” support the safe return of in-person learning, Ontario has introduced new measures to continue to protect students and staff against COVID-19 in the classroom. These measures include the following:

  • Provincewide access will be provided in consultation with the local PHU, to targeted asymptomatic testing for students and staff;
  • Mandatory masking requirement for students will now be required for children in Grades 1-3
  • Masking requirement is now in place for students in Grades 1-12 even while outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained;
  • The province will be providing 3.5 million high-quality cloth masks to schools as a back-up supply for Grade 1-12 students;
  • Enhanced screening will be in place for secondary students and staff;
  • There will now be guidance discouraging students from congregating before and after school;
  • The province will be allowing a Temporary certification of eligible teacher candidates who are set to graduate in 2021 to stabilize staffing levels, following high levels of absenteeism.

Dr. Williams, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario had this to say on Public Health efforts and the new back to school safety measures:

“Reducing the transmission of COVID-19 is fundamental to keeping our communities and schools safe. Our collective efforts, like strictly adhering to all public health measures, in addition to the enhanced safety measures in schools, will help keep communities healthy and students learning alongside their peers in their classrooms.”

Additional funding provided

The release stated that “to further promote health and safety for students and staff, Ontario recently made an additional $381 million in funding available for schools.” The funding, which will be provided under the “Safe Return to Class” fund will be used to “improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health and hire additional staff.”

To date, Ontario has provided schools with more than $1.6 billion to “protect” against COVID-19.

The province has also provided support through its “support for learners” program. The program provides 200 dollars for children and youth up to grade 12 and 250 dollars for students with special needs.

The deadline to apply is February 8, 2021. You can apply here.

You are Eligible if:

Children, youth or students are eligible if they: 

  • attend a publicly funded school
  • attend a private school
  • attend a First Nation operated or federally operated school
  • attend school in-person or online
  • are homeschooled
  • are enrolled in child care
  • are at home

So whether your child is homeschooled because you’ve elected to pull them from school during COVID-19, or they attend a private or public school – they are eligible for funding through the Support for Learners program. Remember though, the deadline is just four days away on February 8th, 2021.

Secondary students can also apply

If you are a secondary student over the age of 18, you can apply on your own, or you can have one of your parents or guardians apply for you.

Secondary students can apply here.

In closing

Although I don’t support the mandatory masking requirements being dropped for students in grades 1-3 and I disdain the idea of requiring masks outside for children when physical distancing can’t be maintained I support the return of students back to school.

I think it is absurd to require masks outdoor in a setting where transmission is less likely to occur. I also think students need to be able to enjoy their recess and let loose and be kids for 15-30 minutes at a time. The mandatory masking on children in grades 1-3 is ludicrous as it now requires 6-8 year old’s to wear a mask for long portions of the day or they will likely face repeated scrutiny from staff.

Children need to be able to play with friends and be kids again. They need to be back in the classroom but we must also ask the question about the long-term consequences on development that may come as a result of mandatory masking.

Humans pick up micro-expressions in other’s facial expressions and this is diminished under a mask. The effects of these measures long-term haven’t really been discussed in the public sphere – and likely won’t anytime soon when Premiers like Ford kick out MPP’s for a difference of opinion. Debate doesn’t seem to be a favourable position in Premier Ford’s government.

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Published by Greg Staley

Greg Staley is a husband and a father to 4 beautiful girls. He is the owner of Diverge Media and takes pride in telling the stories that matter - even if they may be unpopular. In addition to writing, editing, and producing videos and articles for Diverge, Mr. Staley also works full-time on a farm. Mr. Staley is working hard to be able to pursue Diverge Media full-time and wholeheartedly believes that it will become a reality in the near-future with the support of the readers/viewers of Diverge Media.