This week, I was very proud to see my granddaughter starting Kindergarten. She joined other young children taking their desks for the first time and thousands of other local students returning to classes. Teachers and staff have been hard at work preparing for their safe arrival, for nothing is more important. School boards are staying on top of the newest information on COVID-19 so we can employ the latest techniques that will continually improve safeguards for students and staff alike. Our best medical experts have prepared a thorough plan that will allow online and in-class learning while minimizing the future spread of this virus. The following list outlines the top 10 points that every parent should know:
- All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school. Anyone who feels unwell must stay home. Please visit: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/
- Schools must immediately report any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the local public health unit. School boards must report suspected and confirmed cases to the ministry daily.
- Students in Grades 4-12 will be required to wear masks indoors in all parts of the school. Face coverings are not required but are encouraged for students up to Grade 3. The province is funding school boards to provide teachers and other school-based staff with medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shields).
- Schools will teach students appropriate hand hygiene and provide breaks in schedules to allow students to wash their hands. Teachers and staff will also receive additional health and safety training.
- Students will be kept within the same group of children and teachers as much as possible throughout the school day. Additional teachers are being hired to support supervision and keep classes close to funded averages.
- Up to 625 new public health nurses will provide rapid-response support to schools and boards, and facilitate public health and preventative measures.
- Up to 1,300 custodians are being hired, and cleaning supplies provided to ensure each school is thoroughly cleaned throughout the day. School buses are also being cleaned regularly.
- Schools will significantly limit visitors, including parents.
- Schools will keep class attendance records, seating charts, lists of bused students, and approved daily visitor logs (e.g. supply and occasional teachers, custodians) for contact tracing purposes.
- Parental choice will be respected. In-person attendance is optional for both elementary and secondary students for the school year. School boards will offer remote learning options, with multiple opportunities for classroom re-entry throughout the school year. For more information, please visit Ontario.ca/ReopeningSchools
As part of the $25 million Seniors Dental Care Program for low-income seniors, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will be receiving $397,500 to establish a new up-to-date dental clinic at their Pitt Street site. Existing dental equipment will be relocated to the new location, along with a new Panorex x-ray machine, as one of 78 infrastructure improvements funded under the provincial program. In addition, eight new mobile dental clinics will be put on the road to serve rural residents who may not have access to transportation. Studies have shown that unchecked dental issues lead to more emergency room visits and serious health outcomes for our seniors.
On a final note, congratulations to the Williamstown Fair Board for a wonderful experience last weekend. The Fair continued its long uninterrupted staging by hosting a drive-through fair experience, along with a horse riding and dairy calf competition. It was gratifying to see the work put in by the many volunteers and the resulting support from residents.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry