Ontario is extending its remote learning option for the 2021-22 school year, so families who wish to keep their children home can do so once again.
The provincial government announced the extension of remote learning as part of a $2 billion package of pandemic recovery supports for schools to help students transition back to in-class learning in September 2021.
“Every board in Ontario will provide virtual learning experience and more time for parents to make that choice,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Tuesday.
The $2 billion includes money for mental health programs, early reading and math supports, extracurriculars to engage students in school life again. Officials are calling it the largest increase in public education spending in Ontario’s history.
Lecce spoke about the new funding at Queen’s Park along with Kids Help Phone President and CEO Katherine Hay.
“This pandemic has been tough on children,” he said, “[with an impact on] their mental health and adverse impacts to reading and math skills.”
More than $80 million will go toward new mental health supports next school year, with boards hiring more mental health professionals, training teachers on mental health issues, and collaborating with community mental health practitioners for students who need more support.
Money will also go toward getting students caught up in reading and math after a year marked by pandemic-related school disruptions. The government is allocating an additional $8.4 million for tutoring programs in English, French, and Math.
School boards will also be able to access a pot of $20 million for extracurricular outreach and support programs to get kids excited about school again. Programs should support Black students, Indigenous students, and students from low-income households who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- See also:
The province also moved to stabilize funding for students from immigrant families who need English as a Second Language support, because otherwise the funding tied to the number of students may have decreased due to the temporary decline in immigration during the pandemic.
The provincial government is also allocating more than $380 million for staffing flexibility to meet school needs after teachers needed to be shuffled during the pandemic when students were split between online and in-class learning. There is also $29 million earmarked for improved ventilation in schools and $40 million over two years for connectivity and remote learning technology.
Funding for COVID-19-related logistics will also be extended, including personal protective equipment, public health nurses, and asymptomatic testing.
Grants for Student Needs is also receiving more money, with funding projected to reach $25.6 billion in the 2021 school year, an increase of 2.2% compared with the previous year.
The government will also change how online learning classes are funded, and make technical updates.
School boards will be expected to draw on their reserves for these programs to a maximum of 2% of that reserve, after which point the province will fund the cost of the programs.