Legislative Update – December 14, 2020

2020 12/14 | Connects Page, Education Finance, Education Program and Policy, Ontario Newsroom, Provincial Updates

Members of Provincial Parliament concluded their session two days early on December 8, 2020. The Winter Recess continues until February 16, 2021. One of the last government bills on the order paper, Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020, passed Third Reading and was also granted Royal Assent. The government issued a news release highlighting their fall session.

Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020  – TVO Consultations

As mentioned in previous updates, the Ministry of Education engaged education stakeholders in consultations regarding the government’s consideration of broadening the mandates of both mandates of both TVO and TFO, which would position them to provide centralized support for online learning in the English-language and French-language publicly-funded education systems, respectively. OPSBA’s work teams recently met to review and discuss this issue and have sent a submission to the Ministry of Education.

OPSBA’s Submission re: proposed expanded mandate for TVO

OPSBA’s Submission re: Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020

2021-2022 Grant For Student Needs

Information was previously shared about the 2021-22 Education Funding Consultation Guide that includes the following areas of focus: COVID-19 Outbreak Response, the Online Learning Adjustment, the Priorities and Partnerships Fund, Reducing Administrative Burden and Red Tape, the School Board Administration and Governance Grant, Managing Information for Student Achievement (MISA), Census Data and Secondary Class Size Compliance. OPSBA’s Education Program and Policy Development Work Teams will be meeting in early January to review key messages and prepare a response. Outreach will also be made to member board senior business officials and OPSBA’s Indigenous Trustees’ Council. Submissions are due January 15, 2021.

Auditor General’s Report

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s 2020 report has been released and it includes 13 value-for-money audits, with one focusing on education curriculum. The four school boards involved in this audit were the Toronto District School Board, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, District School Board Ontario North East, and the Near North District School Board. Another audit was about Indigenous issues.

A follow up to the 2018 audit regarding School Boards—IT Systems and Technology in the Classroom was also released at the same time.

COVID-19 Update

As of the morning of December 11, 1,694 cases of COVID-19 cases had been reported in publicly funded schools in the past 14 days, up from 1,180 last week. Of those cases, 1,398 are students, 293 are staff, and 3 are not identified. Eleven of the 4,828 schools in the province are currently closed, or 0.23%.

On December 11, the government announced seven public health regions will be moving to new levels effective December 14, 2020. On December 10, Windsor-Essex County Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed issued a Section 22 order to close all schools to students as of December 14. Students will transition to remote learning for the week prior to the holidays. In a statement, Dr. Ahmed stated that “an extension of this order may be considered based on COVID-19 epidemiological data for Windsor and Essex County.” Schools will remain open for educators and staff and full-time child care facilities. 

Also on December 11, the Deputy Minister sent a memo to school boards with information for parents and teachers regarding health and safety measures over the holidays break and for the return to school in January. The DM memo also included a Parent Template and the Educator’s Guide.

On December 9, Health Canada approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in Canada, following a two-month review of the company’s clinical trial data by government scientists. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine would arrive by the end of the year, with this initial round primarily earmarked for long-term care home residents and the staff working there. Beginning December 15, these first doses will be administered at University Health Network in Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital to health care workers who are providing care in long-term care homes and other high-risk settings.

See Ontario government news release regarding the key populations who will receive the vaccine first: Ontario Identifies Key Groups for Distribution of Initial COVID-19 Vaccines

On December 10, Ontario extended all existing COVID-19 orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) until January 20, 2021. The government says this extension will support the safe delivery of health care and other critical services until COVID-19 vaccines are approved and widely available. Under the ROA, orders can be extended for up to 30 days at a time, and the government must report on all order extensions to the Select Committee on Emergency Management Oversight.

Other News Releases and Information

On December 10, the Deputy Ministered issued a memo regarding School-Based Health and Rehabilitation Services and the announcement that, “The Ministry of Education has entered into an agreement with Ontario Health to make the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) virtual care platform available to all publicly funded school boards at no cost for one year, from November 1, 2020 until October 31, 2020.”