The Legislative Assembly of Ontario was resumed from October 4 to 8 and is now off for a constituency week that coincides with the Thanksgiving holiday. Members of Provincial Parliament will return on October 18, 2021.
The legislation was introduced on October 7, 2021 by Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. It includes 25 Schedules or proposed changes to various Acts, including Schedule 8 Education Act. “The Education Act is amended to remove references to ranked ballot elections, change when boards must elect their chairs and when the chief executive officer of a board must submit a report to the Minister, and eliminate certain requirements relating to the appointment of supervisory officers.” There is also a regulatory proposal posted regarding the change for Supervisory Officers – “The legislative changes would remove the requirement for school boards to seek confirmation from the Minister of Education that a person is eligible to be appointed as a supervisory officer, and the requirement for a supervisory officer to seek approval from the Minister of Education to hold any additional office, have any other employment or follow any other profession or calling during their tenure.” OPSBA staff will review the draft legislation and regulatory proposal for commentary.
Status: First Reading
The legislation was introduced by Liberal house leader John Fraser on October 7, 2021. The Act would compel specified education sector organizations and healthcare sector organizations to require their employees and other individuals that they retain to provide services to be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine.
Status: First Reading
This private member’s bill has been re-introduced by NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong on October 7, 2021. The bill would proclaim April 2 in each year as Autism Awareness Day.
Status: First Reading
Liberal MPP Stephen Blais re-tabled this bill on October 6, 2021. It would insist the code of conduct for municipal councillors and members of local boards to include a requirement for those councillors and members to comply with workplace violence and harassment policies. Note: it does not concern school board trustees.
Status: First Reading
Free Menstrual Products in Schools
On October 8, the Ministry of Education issued the news release, Ontario Launches Free Menstrual Products in Schools and memo B21, Enhanced Student Access to Free Menstrual Products in Ontario Schools. The announcement details include the distribution “six million free menstrual products per year to school boards under a new and innovative partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart designed to improve access to menstrual products.” Product allocations for school year 2021-22 can be found in an Appendix. This issue has been an important area of advocacy among the work of our student trustees through OSTA-AECO, as well as our own efforts at OPSBA. Many member boards have made local decisions to provide these products free to their students and other boards have written to the Minister of Education asking for them to be funded. OPSBA President Cathy Abraham also responded to today’s announcement with this statement: Free menstrual products will reduce barriers for students across Ontario – OPSBA
COVID-19 Update / Return to School Fall 2021
As of October 8, 1,493 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in publicly funded schools in the past 14 days. Of those cases, 1,362 are students, 129 are staff, and two are not identified. Nine, or 0.19%, of the 4,844 schools in the province are currently closed.
On October 1, the Ministry of Education sent school boards guidance for safety protocols and steps that school staff can take to handle ongoing incidents of COVID-19 related protests and harassment targeting students and staff. A Ministry memo provides additional advice from the Ministry of the Solicitor General and law enforcement.
On October 5, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced greater access to local targeted COVID-19 rapid antigen testing for students. The program will support access to voluntary, rapid asymptomatic screening for unvaccinated children and students who are not high-risk contacts. Where the local public health unit has identified schools or child care centres that would benefit from this screening, rapid antigen screening tests will be made available. Parents will be able to choose if their unvaccinated asymptomatic children will participate in this screening offered by their schools or licensed child care settings. Unvaccinated children participating in the program will be able to conduct the rapid antigen screening at home with instructions. Children who receive a positive result will be required to seek a Lab-based PCR test at a local assessment centre or specimen collection centre and isolate until the result of that lab-based PCR test is known. Children who receive a negative result on a rapid antigen screening test will be able to continue in-person learning.
See the memo from Minister Stephen Lecce and Deputy Minister Nancy Naylor regarding this initiative.
In addition, school boards were sent information about continued participation in monthly COVID-19 pulse surveys. The survey remains web-based and is now shorter and more user-friendly to submit information.
The ministry also issued a memo with a Thanksgiving Weekend Health and Safety Reminder.
Northern Region Conference
Trustees are invited to OPSBA’s Northern Region Conference taking place October 16, 2021 from 8:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. via Zoom. The program includes special speakers, updates from the Northern boards and discussion around Northern Ontario education. If you are planning to attend, please send a quick note to the OPSBA webmaster. The full program can be found online here.
Trustee Code of Conduct Consultations 2021
OPSBA’s Policy Development Work Team is convening to discuss the Association’s response to the Ministry of Education’s Code of Conduct consultations and will be attending a stakeholder consultation meeting led by the Ministry of Education that includes the other trustee/school board associations. OPSBA President Cathy Abraham, OPSBA Executive Director Rusty Hick, senior staff and representatives from Executive Council will attend.
Local Government Week (LGW) – October 18-22, 2021 #LocalGovWeek
OPSBA staff is finalizing its LGW social media campaign, which will focus on the breadth of OPSBA and the important work of trustees with videos from our Regional Chairs and the boards and school authorities that belong to the Association’s five regions. We have asked education stakeholders to also participate by posting information and using our hashtag #LocalGovWeek. Trustees are encouraged to use the updated 2021 resources on the OPSBA website and supplement with local content and considering including a link to the video for Above and Beyond.
Other News Releases and Information
- October 8, 2021 News Release: ROMA Launches its 2022 Virtual Conference
- October 6, 2021: Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) Report, Federal and Provincial COVID-19 Response Measures: 2021 Update
- October 5, 2021: Memo SB22, Construction Action Plan – COVID-19 Related Incremental Direct Costs for School Board Capital Projects Survey and Principals for Pandemic Related Provision Language