Ontario schools will offer online learning option in 2021-22

Ontario has not set a date to allow school children to return to in-class learning, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, has not changed his advice to offer remote learning exclusively, Lecce said Tuesday.

“We continue to face real issues in the province of Ontario, high rates of community-based transmission, and our intensive care units continue to face incredible levels of stress,” he added. “And that’s why the province took action, extending the stay-at-home order.”

Ontario’s elementary and secondary students have been learning remotely since April.

The government is making sure that families will still have the option for full-time online learning in the fall, he confirmed.

NDP MPP Marit Stiles said the announcement reveals the Doug Ford government’s plan to push the province into permanent online learning despite an “absolutely horrible” experience for families during the pandemic.

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She said online learning as hurt kids’ mental health and forced some parents out of the workforce.

“It’s pretty clear that planning for online learning for the entire next school year is not just about COVID-19, it’s about government saving money off the backs of our kids, and it always has been,” Stiles said.

The government’s plan includes $1.6 billion to make schools safer in the fall and help children rebound from learning loss due to the disrupted school year, according to Lecce.

The plan will also preserve a family’s choice for online learning in September, something parents have indicated is important in the continuing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, he said.

“We are ensuring every board in Ontario will provide that choice of a virtual learning experience, and we’ve asked them to provide more time to parents to make that choice,” Lecce said. “That’s what we’re confirming today.”

aartuso@postmedia.com