With September only a few weeks away, the start of school is coming up soon. Parents in Oakville North-Burlington are asking what the government is doing for education and how it’s going to ensure a safe reopening of public schools.

First, some very good news. Education Minister Stephen Lecce was in our community to announce Ontario is investing $33.6 million for a new high school for 1200 students in fast-growing north Oakville. The new school will provide modern and up-to-date learning facilities for students, teachers and staff. It is part of our province-wide plan to invest over $500 million to build 30 new schools and additions to 15 more.

The Minister has also announced the government’s plan to reopen public schools in September. It’s a detailed plan for students, parents and boards, based on the advice of Canada’s leading medical and scientific experts — including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer and the Hospital for Sick Children. It sets out guidelines that will allow students across the province to safely return to class in September.

Elementary schools will fully reopen five days a week. High schools will reopen with up to 15 students in each class. Students will alternate between attending in-person and on line, with at least half of the time in-class. This is part of a plan for “cohorting,” in which students will stay within smaller groups within schools. Parents may choose for their children not to immediately return to school, in which case they will be offered live, online learning with other students.

Students in Grades 4 to 12, staff and teachers will wear masks and the province is providing schools more than $300 million to buy masks and protective gear, to hire 500 public health staff and more custodians. The province will provide guidance on protective measures, social distancing and on how to identify if students or staff are ill. You can read the detailed plan at ontario.ca/page/guide-reopening-ontarios-schools.

Our local school boards will also be posting their reopening plans online and parents can check about specific plans for individual schools at hdsb.ca or hcdsb.org. Working together, and based on the best medical advice, we can safely reopen our schools, ensuring that all students, teachers and staff are protected.