Ford, education and tourism ministers to make announcement on Friday
Published Friday, August 14, 2020 7:42AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 14, 2020 1:42PM EDT
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his ministers of education and tourism will make an announcement on Friday, a day after his government announced changes to its school reopening plan meant to reassure parents, teachers and school boards.
Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod will speak at Queen's Park at 1 p.m. Friday.
Yesterday, Lecce announced changes to the province's school reopening plan, allowing school boards to access their reserve funds to pay for hiring teachers to decrease class sizes and increase physical distancing in elementary school classrooms.
He also announced funding for online learning coordination and $50 million to upgrade HVAC systems in school buildings to increase ventilation.
He also indicated the start of the school year could be staggered, with different grades starting on different days and lease space in community centre or other facilities to use as classrooms.
Toronto Mayor John Tory says he has offered city facilities for schools' use, but has not yet heard a reply from the province or any school board.
Boards including the Toronto District School Board have said most the money they have in reserve is already earmarked for ongoing projects and it would be unwise for them to divert the money to decreasing class sizes.
The TDSB also said it is not sure at this point if class could resume as planned on Sept. 8.
Lecce told CP24 on Friday a staggering of class start times was acceptable, but not an outright delay.
"If school boards want to stagger the opening – to mitigate having a mass volume of students entering schools on the first day that seems prudent. But parents really want to get their kids back in to class, there's an overwhelming medical and mental health and developmental imperative that parents get their kids back in school."
He reiterated his and Ford's belief that the plan adequately funds measures to counter the virus.
"I think we can be ready. We are making the investments and boards are working hard."
Meanwhile, the four unions representing teachers in the province said Thursday they believe the school reopening plan may violate the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, and are seeking a meeting with the Ministry of Labour to voice their concerns.