THUNDER BAY – Schools across Ontario are closed. A decision on opening will be made soon according to Premier Doug Ford.
On Saturday, Premier Ford at his daily press conference said, “Next week we will be announcing that. We just want to look at the numbers again. We’ve had an in-depth conversation with the Minister of Education and he’ll be making an announcement next week on that.”
The Ministry of Education currently has ordered schools closed until May 29, 2020.
The Lakehead Board of Education states, “As we continue to navigate through these uncertain times, many difficult circumstances have had to be considered and all decisions have been made in the best interests of students, staff, and school communities in consultation with our public health partners.
“At this time, after extensive deliberations with our school administrators and school boards across the province, a decision has been made to postpone all secondary school graduations. The graduation dances will also be postponed. School and Board scholarships, awards, and bursaries will be determined in June.”
The province has authorized a re-deployment of school workers.
The Ontario government has approved an emergency order that would enable available school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to congregate care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and women’s shelters. Many of these congregate care settings are in need of staff such as custodial and maintenance workers.
“Our priority continues to be protecting our most vulnerable citizens and the dedicated staff that care for them during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Premier Ford. “Many of our long-term care homes, and shelters are short of staff, so I am encouraging any available educational workers to help out if you can, because you can make a real difference in the lives of those most in need.”
Under the emergency order, school boards would be authorized to develop and implement staff redeployment plans. Voluntarily redeployed staff would maintain their employment relationship with the school board and would continue to receive their compensation and other employment benefits. They would also be eligible for the provincial government’s pandemic pay and emergency child care.
“While all the Trustee Associations that represent school boards, and many of the unions have confirmed their willingness to help out, there is no provision within the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act to redeploy staff to non-education employers,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “This emergency order opens the door for our educational workers to voluntarily go where they are needed most during this crisis.”
Training and appropriate safety equipment will be provided to any educational worker who volunteers to be redeployed in a congregate setting.