David Hutchison, Professor of Educational Studies at Brock University, wrote a piece recently published in The Toronto Star about the burden faced by parents in Ontario who are deciding whether to allow their children to return to school in September.
“Politically speaking, a government is likely to weather the pandemic crisis so long as the electorate believes it is doing everything it reasonably can do to protect the general public. Such was no doubt the political calculation the Ontario government made last week when it announced its multifaceted plan for getting students back to school.
Ontario’s plan certainly boasts some innovative elements. It has different back-to-school trajectories for elementary and high school students, as well as small and large school boards. It’s also the only provincial plan that will see the hiring of hundreds of school nurses (although not likely in time for September startup). Most notably, the requirement for all students in Grades 4 and higher to wear masks is far stricter than the lax school mask standards of some other provinces.
In the news conference announcing their guidance for school boards, the premier and minister of education closely tied the government’s plan to SickKids’ recommendations for schools, taking pains to note that the government’s mask mandate for Grades 4 and up was more stringent than SickKids’ recommendations.
In terms of class sizes, the government was able to skirt the need to reduce elementary class sizes by adopting SickKids’ one-metre physical distancing guidelines (down from the two-metre guidelines recommended by other leading health authorities). No need to hire more teachers or find more teaching spaces, which would likely lead to a delay in the start of the school year. Following the news conference, all looked to be on track.
What a difference a week makes.”
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