School closures in Ontario affect over 2 million elementary and secondary school students. Ontario issued the first school closure announcement on 12 March 2020 to take effect for an initial period from 14 March to 4 April 2020, compelling all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools to close during this time.On 17 March 2020, the government declared an official state of emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This required the immediate closure of all private schools as defined in the Education Act and of all licensed child care centres, amongst other public places and institutions. Public school closures were extended another three times – first until 4 May, then 31 May, and finally until the end of June. Ontario’s Framework for Continued Learning was released on 19 May 2020 with a notice for public consultation until the end of June. These recommendations are a response to that call.
The recommendations are to:
- Strengthen mechanisms for multistakeholder and cross-sectoral policy dialogue.
- Adopt a crisis-sensitive approach to immediate, medium-, and long-term education planning and recovery. Extend cross-sectoral approaches prioritizing the vulnerable and at-risk.
- Adopt a comprehensive remote and distance learning plan, ensuring continuity for the most vulnerable.
- Keep education staff, spaces, and services separate. Treat schools as closed systems.
- Address teacher and education worker supply, well-being, capacity, and conditions as education front-line workers to ensure quality education and learning.
- Institute strategic education data collection for continuous situation analysis. When appropriate, institute safe school operations, and open 'better schools'.
Srivastava, P. (2020). Considerations for school reopening in Ontario: Building a more resilient education system for recovery. Recommendations submitted by P. Srivastava, Y. Nestel, & K. Mundy to the Ministry of Education, Ontario. June 2020. London, ON: Western University.