The Ontario government has developed a plan for the “gradual and safe” resumption of in-person instruction at postsecondary institutions across the province for the summer term.
The plan was developed in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
On Wednesday, Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano said that starting in July, limited in-person education and training may restart for students who were not able to graduate due to COVID-19 closures.
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This first phase will allow institutions to reopen to provide in-person instruction to students in essential, frontline, and high labour market demand areas, such as nursing, personal support workers, engineering, and other “critical professions.”
“It’s critical that we allow students to complete their studies and graduate so they can join the workforce in high-demand, frontline roles and help put the province back on the path to prosperity,” said Romano.
“I will continue to collaborate with the postsecondary sector to determine how best to move forward on reopening our campuses in the fall and beyond in a way that is responsible and safe for our students and staff.”
According to the province, limited summer reopening will help individual institutions prepare for the fall term by ensuring proper health and safety protocols are in place.
The province is developing a framework to be released to the sector in the coming days, which will provide guidance on the summer reopening and on health and safety measures.
Publicly assisted colleges and universities, Indigenous Institutes, private career colleges, and other postsecondary education institutions may participate in this voluntary reopening.
Institutions that choose to participate will be responsible for establishing their own plans for this limited reopening in accordance with public health advice and any ministry guidance.
In September, all students will have the opportunity to attend postsecondary education through virtual learning, in-class instruction, or hybrid formats.
“Whether it’s donating PPE, researching a vaccine or treatment, or helping with contact tracing, our students, researchers, and postsecondary community in Ontario have stepped up in a big way to support our frontline health care workers in response to COVID-19,” said Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.
“Now, we have to have their backs and make sure our students can keep learning, in class or virtually, and become the next generation of frontline heroes, innovators and community builders.”
The premier and Health Minister Christine Elliot, were not in attendance at the press conference, as both were getting tested for COVID-19 after being in close proximity with Education Minister Stephen Lecce who was in close contact with a COVID positive person.
However, Lecce’s tests results came back negative.
On May 21, Romano said that academic institutions are preparing for what he calls a hybrid model, when classes resume in the fall.
Schools must maximize the course content that is available virtually and that “courses that can be online, must be.”
But for classes that must have in-person attendance, like trade schools and graduate programs where labs are necessary, the government is working on a proposal to implement safe measures for students.