Round Table with Minister Lecce and MPP Billy Pang



MPP Billy Pang Remark:

Thank you to all parents for processing Appearing in today's session roundtable. We are also joined by our local school board trustees, Allan Tam, Ron Lynn, and James Ecker. Today, I'm joined with the Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. He will join us shortly to hear directly from parents of my community on any questions you may be having regarding the safe reopening of schools. During this uncertain time. I want to thank parents, teachers, staff for supporting and continuing the education for our students in these past months. On July 30, our government released a safety plan for the reopening of school in September. Since then, some parents of Markham has reached out to my office to voice their questions and thoughts. I look forward to hear from you and more parents in today's Roundtable. But don't It's clear, and we'll leave unchanged. The health and safety of your children will remain our government's priority. And with this, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Minister Stephen Lecce Remark:

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be with you. Thank you so much, really the opportunity with families right across your community and also your region member taxpayers. hair and family work and children will be re-entering the Catholic school so very much committed to working with durability as a former trustee as a parent and of course as a member to ensure kids can return to class safely. With respect to the overall plan, I think it is important to benchmark our plan against other provinces to be quite right in this country to understand to understand our strengths and the areas for growth. What is the premier indicated today when he was asked? You know, a similar question is that our government's commitment is to keep building our safe planners endorsed by the Chief Medical Officer of health. And quite frankly, is underscored by science and evidence when it comes to be the only province in Canada that has mask. I mean, you know, respectfully, it's hard not to decouple what Ontario is doing when virtually every province is falling or trying to catch up, doesn't mean we can do more and tomorrow I intend to present this week rather later this week, to an further steps they got to take to further strengthen the efficacy of our plan to make it more safe for kids to go back with total confidence. Because we really do believe it is an imperative for our economy, our kids, and really just from an educational perspective, they gotta get back on track to get back to work. And so we are masking, we are providing resources for distancing, public health has not endorsed a quantum you suggest to the question. I've not heard any other unions respectfully call for that number. I've not heard public health suggests a number for the distance, more dispensing and better ventilation, and improved cleaning protocols. And so what we're doing is we're putting about $75 million. Next move, including, because we recognize, you know, it's going to be pretty foundational to keep these surfaces touch points, constantly clean. So we're adding 1300 custodians reading 20 by million dollars in additional cleaning products and sanitation with providing massive challenge or require all staff will also have PPE. In addition, we're hiring nurses are the only province in Canada to have a nursing plan that public health nurses and veterinary schools to support testing to support screening and symptom relief of any chocolate, any symptoms, colored influence, etc. We are also a part of our client in the context of all entries, making sure that there are more resources in place. So today is I think, a bit of a primer for me just to reaffirm to you that every step of the way of going through this identical first cross most schools, we will reopen schools but we're going to do so with one resource in place when stepping it up week after week. Listen to the advice I think demonstrating and hopefully to parents that we will not spare an expense we've just put 300 and $9 million new next new. That's important and we're going to do more than I think we can I don't really die and really for all of us, we simply want to affirm to parents that the investments we're making it staffing, in resources in cleaning and testing, the only province to have asymptomatic testing of high school students. And everything else, I think will really ensure safe, we started with the recognition. There are going to be stepping it up now in the coming days, but really continuously through the coming year based on that challenge.




Question 1:

Minister, can you give us more information on the adaptive model? And how will this model work and look like for secondary students?


Answer 1:

The principal the adaptive is in a community where the community transition Risk is higher your region Toronto Durham appeal. The idea is the emerging evidence is clear that what we know is older students, there's a high rate of transmission and younger students as a consequence and to de risk the circumstance we directed those boards in those higher risk, higher tracking retransmission rates to go on the adaptive model, which in some communities will be half a day some it'll be every other day or every other week. It really depends on the school boards have developed those plans in conjunction with a local health board so to speak for them because there's four boards normal, many of them will many kids will be in the public and Catholic systems primarily, but that's the principle behind it. When a child is in class, they're led by their teacher. When a child is at home when they're not in class. The rest of it will be done remotely. Now with perspective we'll learn we'll be putting a very clear expectations when it comes to the online experience of higher status. Yours more time with synchronous live learning. I've heard from you, I did this roundtable with many of you that I remember some of your faces the last time we did this, I guess Philly was about a month ago or so. And the feedback we heard from you was clear, you know, while you appreciate it, your child had access to online learning during the closure, you want it to be better. And by the way, I totally agree. I mean, what we need to be quite frayed is we need to have alignment. We have support from our local unions to enable to do better when it comes to synchronous learning as opposed to spring. So now we're creating more clear expectations standing up for parents and those children when they're not in school for half a day or half or every other week or their date. They deserve to have a chess teacher in front of them with all their kids, just like we're doing now in the Zune style, improve the learning improve the experience, and while I'm the first to acknowledge it's not going to replace the in class experience, at least it gives them something defensible access to their teacher quality education and their kids in A community that they can be supportive. That also applies. I know you did ask the city but it also applies those expectation for those parents, some of you who will choose or have chosen to have your child go with the hundred percent online loan option, as you know, in turn is one of the only problems I think we are only aware of. Okay, there's one other Perhaps that is offering choice. Most provinces you send your child in class or homeschool, we believe we have to give more options for parents, you're the first educator you know, you obviously know what's best for your child. So the online option is strengthened for those that choose 100% of mine in class will be saved. And of course, for those communities in high risk, like in your region where we all live, that will be adapted for high school smoke. So I don't want to put any of the trusses as part of that should they feel inclined to maybe explain more of like visiting them. And that gives you a flavor of the reason why we're doing it and the public health rationale for why that method was, I think important to reduce the risk and keep in mind Colleagues, as if we flatten this curve, we continue to do the basic work. Now, each day's consecutive under 100 cases, we tested 27,000 people, as I recall correctly. Fortunately, people and there's no 90 odd people who get a positive test now that's still too high. But to be quite frank, that is an amazing ability to move that trajectory down, flatten that curve. That's a testament to all of us. If that continues, and the community risk is lower, that our instinct is to go from the adaptive model, I, you know, the blended model the every other day, every week model to the conventional. Right now we're staying we're keeping it safe, we're starting to do lifting the Public Health Service, cautious restart. And if an October November, it gets better than we can scale up and just let them call it until there's a second wave and it gets worse. We can scale them. We have that ability on the trail because we've asked our school board and they've been doing a good job in preparing for those three different scenarios that could arise The following deal.


Question 2:

Many parents are wondering what options are there if the either the parent or the child does not feel ready to physically go back to school year in September? And can you tell us more about what online learning will look like? And how will it be ensured that it will be better than it was in March to June?


Answer 2:

Yeah, you absolutely deserve it to be better. And what we really appreciate is that parents have strongly advocated with the government, really respectfully calling on you know, or our unions to be part of that solution and to truly support the delivery of education is extraordinary. I know this is normal. I know it is unprecedented. I know we're all having to adapt, but we all must adapt. Some of us, all of us. And I think synchronous learning live learning is important. You know, and I think what I can assure you, is when I come out with further details very shortly, very, very short, sweet, on what it will look like it'll be an improved experience. The first point, I guess, Kitty is that you have a choice and school boards are permitting you, you know. So in the coming days decision will have to be made for different school boards in Ontario, or you're permitted at choice, you can go online 100% and go in class. Well, we're also asking school boards to do is to offer parents or we entrance period, meaning if you started online in September, to allow you the parent to choose to have your child's going back into school at a later date. No matter whatever that date is. It really depends on the board and the local health. We are the banker, December, January, etc. The point is you will have the right should you think things go well, reasonably safe and your child is ready for that you're ready for that you have the right and the ability to re-enter your child into class online, into the in class experience. That's a really amazing value. Drop trailer. And then finally it just comes to the experience it'll be significantly increased a bicycle will be more teachable learning, you will have access to a schedule like a like an actual normal itinerary of a child scheduled a child with a full day is booked with either in cloud either online learning with their teacher through live experience, or asynchronous meaning to watching a specific video produced and then discussion after the point is that they will actually schedule a calendar creates dependent consistency. It also allows the parent to know what is my job during tomorrow, wherever your theme focuses. And it empowers you to step a bit more information. So the system will be better. Obviously, we're only took 2 million kids online. And now we're trying to build up something that has been largely opposed and not supported in Ontario via a variety of factors, as I mentioned already, but I'm hoping that because we're wrapping this up calling more of this type of work And because of the work of government, I believe in so many others who could really say we got to do better, and we're with you 100%. I will not defend what transpired in the spring we expect better sub problems or an industrial economy or our powerful democracy by wealthy appeal and ingenuity. We've got all the abilities to deliver a better experience. I announced more money for more computers so that those low income kids are not you know, you know, fall through the cracks, we give them the ability to drama. We then created a partnership with Apple with Rogers I call the leadership of both companies and got a very discounted price point that school boards utilize our 10s of thousands of devices of iPads with internet and distributed I provided another $15 million for another 37,000 devices here. And so as I say, internet will be in every high school devices are being developed. It provides those fancy Really trying to work around those issues, and just trying to make it more accessible, more defensible and more positive and experience for the child and really, but also for you as parents and make sure you're learning the curriculum and getting that one on one support in the classroom support.


Question 3:

If face to face learning was first chosen, could parents and students have the option to re-enter online learning after October?


Answer 3:

Yes, in short, the answers they will we really do believe it's important for parents out that choice, each school board so we're talking about your decision on the Catholic and the French boards, but you know, the boards will put out that that term that date, you know, so what they'll what they are going to say is, you know you're allowed to re-enter your child, however, you've got to give us notice and they'll be some sort of notice period required because look, folks, imagine a school board with hundreds of thousands For 10s of thousands of staff, I tried to allow that mobility in and out is an amazing thing. But it requires time and awareness to the staff, or online teachers and from person to I don't want to speak to the board, but I do understand the challenges they have. So I notice will be important. But in short, yes, you're gonna be given that opportunity to answer your child in class. At a point, we're asking the ministry for as many points as functionally are operation possible. That's got to be you know, funerals for sure. And it's certainly well, at least to know, one, at least one entrance point in the years that you have the choice based on your experience and evidence. If you want to put your child back into school in at a later point, likely looking probably closer to the Christmas period. But again, that'll be a decision point. That'll be communicated by the school board. if they haven't already communicated, I know that they will be very racial.



Question 4:

Minister, can you tell us more about the plan on keeping students and staff safe through physical distancing in the classroom?


Answer 4:

Well, on buses, we have changed the protocol for buses as well. The guidance provided that we've given to school boards is a what the number of children in the bus will be reduced significantly. As you know, the whole benefit of having children in one class is that the kids are cohorted. And they stay together, they play together, they learn together, that is an advantage. It's actually very important for contact traction your interactions just put the kids to the kids but they do so in a group and buses. As you know, you've got multiple kids coming from different classes, sometimes even schools, different boards, so quite some challenges for our school board. So what we've done is we've provided $40 million for additional cleaning of school buses, which the school bus Association welcomed as a significant investment to keep them clean constantly. Throughout routes. What we've also done is we've changed the amount we've provided assigned seating so there's consistency where the child is. And that's important as well from the contact tracing of minimizes the amount of mobility of children every morning every night talking to or rather be close to other children. And the number of children on the seat has changed only siblings. family in the same home could sit on the same seat. That'll be one child per seat. It does change. It does change the delivery does change the impact on school boards, but at the end of the day, we provided guidance on how to change. We also understand from school boards that there are you know that more parents will be bringing their children to class based on those early survey results, irrespective the obligation is to make sure to say To make sure that there is a one child with a seat and masking would be required additional PPE would be provided for the bus driver and cleaning as I noted 40 million next new money. This one This one year one time investment this year will to keep them constantly clean will also help in maintaining safe.



Question 5:

To begin, will there be any screening or testing for teachers and students at the beginning of the school year or at regular intervals.


Answer 5:

So the screening will take place every person staff teacher students is screened to be screened before they enter the schools. This rigorous screening process will provide that information who the parents power of them to be honest and transparent any symptoms at all. The child should up into the classroom that applies, you know, for kids, because you know, we parents have to make these decisions every year, you always are making that judgment call if it's the sniffles, or if it's the flu, the flu season happening. You know, in the fall, that's common, and there's always those children. So we're really looking to parents, that transparency, they know that they will be, as we know that the quality of the impact is safety. So the screening applies for everyone. Ontario is the only province that will be doing aggressive any form of aggressive testing asymptomatic students. So you know, symptoms are not you know, you're going to be getting surveillance testing, which means the war will be the only province to have significant numbers of children focusing on high school just given that transmission risk, but public health anywhere they like based on locality what's happening. I'm really focusing on asymptomatic surveillance has to constantly be surveyed, where students are And ultimately, if they are staying safe and that testing component is critical to operate management, it's critical to our effectiveness of flattening the curve. It's also critical and understanding where the risks are. And where do we deploy those public health nurses that Ontario's position to have as we hire upwards of 500 public health nurses that will be trained in infection prevention, which will be a really amazing advantage for Ontario, Doctor, administrators, teachers, likewise, for principals to have a medical person on staff, there's no problems, or to be quite frank, no proposal I've seen that includes that, but I'm trying to lead the way in this respect. We want to add a medical lens to this position. So the priority and the perspective will be we'll let you listen to the advice of doctors and nurses to help with those issues. So testing, absolutely, we are in a strong position to be in constant testing the testing swaps anyone's had You know, Colby tests a little uncomfortable that you may suggest more uncomfortable to add to the test. The ones we are procuring for our kids is a soft swap. They don't really go all the way up, they just literally touch the inside of your nasal cavity. They're not invasive, painful, if anything, maybe they make you look a ticklish but they're not painful. It's that type of consideration. Like we're literally thinking through the lens of how to make this regularized how to make it constant but also how to make it not invasive annoying for the child. And we're looking at that level, that level of detail to make sure we get this right. And I just want to be clear, the broader picture. Testing and screening of course, public health nurses will support that the symptoms there's a outbreak management plan of a child's symptoms feeling isolated, or immediately. The school board the local public health officer for the parents have some form, of course to pursue proven and we have sufficient supply of tests and public health assets to deploy if we need to. And that's another screen in our plan that we can move literally nurses, or doctors acquired into schools where there could be level, higher areas of risk. To 30 years ago, I spoke to the Minister of Education in New South Wales, Australia. You may think live when I call that person, but not the same Commonwealth country. They in Australia have the opposite season. So they're in winter, and they've been hit by the flu season. And I called really to understand the best practices and the lessons learned and what are you facing, right? What's your what's your recommendation among a variety of solutions, including masking which ones will be the only problems to mask? It's great. But what she also said to me was, in the context of preventing the spread is the importance of vaccination. I'm not talking about vaccine for covid. I mean, for all the other influenza for all the other vaccines and parents make at their children, they get to really make sure that those are up to date. And those are before the kids going to school. That's critical. And just it's important I share that with you because her lesson to me was, you know, vaccination is critical because many of the symptoms ended up happening in the schools. They looked like COVID, the child that holds the child, the kid got a fever, which happens we all know what happens. All that happens to your children happens tonight. my nieces, this is a normal thing. But how do you differentiate what's the advantage of having that nurse on site? The advantage of having the training of every educator and the principles which were providing professional public health, health and safety training or spending $10 million inspect, that includes even the occasional teachers, by teachers as well, everyone will have that training and have that knowledge.



Question 6:

Minister, can you tell us more about the protocol for outbreaks? And how will parents receive timely communication regarding outbreaks?


Answer 6:

Yeah, absolutely. Communications is vital in constant contact with the classroom, family something that is an expectation for selling school boards and that is being in immediate contact with the parent. If that as I mentioned earlier, there's an outbreak or symptom manifests in the class and the child is isolated. The immediate action of the school the principal will be to attention to developing cause or space in the classroom, and the meeting or whatever it may be to isolate the cause. Of course, we don't want any infection or transmission to take place. Once that happens, and while that's happening, essentially, immediately, a variety of chain of actions take place. The Public Health Officers informed The parent is informed the school board is based on the symptoms the public health officer may recommend the child gets a test, which they would do so immediately. The public health officer not the principal, not of the politician, not a public servant doctors, nurses will make a judgment call saying okay, well, based on what I'm hearing, I like the entire class to quarantine or end or get a test. That's a decision for the doctors and medical leaders will decide because of course, that's what I would expect my resume I think we all would expect. So those decisions will come from communicating clearly and directly to the parent of what the impact is and what the recommended next steps are either isolation quarantine, it could be a shorter period of quarantine two days or 24 to 48 hours and it could be a 14 day quarantine really depends on certain no cookie cutter approach you can take based on the challenges that will arise but the protocol is isolation. It's involving public health, and if then empowering the parent with information and recommended next steps under quarantine for period, whatever that quantum of time is excellent. As well as potentially getting the child tested, which would be, which would be directed to be done in that instance immediately at the job test, wait for the results. And then for public health guides. So there's a clear protocol, there's also going to be communication going on that protocol just so parents have a better sense of what happens if this happened. What happens if one child what happens if the teacher has the symptom? What happens and even then whatever it is, as you could imagine, there's hundreds and thousands of scenarios. And that document will be providing to parents just to arm them with more information on what to do, how to respond, and what are your responsibilities with schools? And how do we collaborate really in the context of just maintaining the safety of the kid Center staff, which is paramount and making sure that information flows quickly. You know, not everyone should be getting a call in nine hours after your child may have been nice. We expect that communication out medially and we know our school boards will do.



Question 7:

What direction and support is the government giving boards around cleaning and staffing?


Answer 7:

Yeah, this is a big priority. Because you know, Ontario put about $75 million in our plan to hire more staff to hire roughly 1300 custodians more custodians in Ontario, that will be important. That's gonna be critical when it comes to hiring more of them. Keep in mind that when we negotiate agreements, we actually we announced, part of the agreement was an investment support for students to hire upwards of 2000 new facility, so we're actually hiring a lot of new customers. In the context of getting more cleaning, it's also nice to look at staffing, which is critical. 50 of the 75 billion is for staffing, the 25 is for more money, but $30 million in all in for and sanitation stands. So cleaning all these things. We're also looking at additional actions to improve your airflow environments. Certainly driving around the child, encouraging school boards to utilize outdoor spaces for learning, September October inspection, keeping windows open ventilation capacity and the promises of additional ways to help but when it comes to cleaning, we've stepped up that investment lead in this respect. And we know that it's going to be critical. We continue to be there for school boards building. We have set aside significant funding for staffing significant funding for cleaning products, and as I say the risk increases the risk changes this virus creates new evidence that requires new investments or new actions and During reading, for example, we will read it. I've already announced twice now in this area in the last few days, and will continue to step it up based on the challenges that we faced.



Question 8:

What happens during lunch and snack time? Will there be a time when students will be able to take off their masks?


Answer 8:

Yeah, you know, it's an important question, because, you know, look, we may be the only province to have mandated mask. I know that sealants. It's tough, right? I mean, anyone who's wearing a mask for a long period of time because it was one of the people in the economy to be quite frank, no adults, to be fair, do it all the time. And someone's essential service, hospitality, food and beverage at first responders. It's tough. So what were the guidance for saying to school boards, educators is to create more calling, you know, mask resets, which, essentially what that means is, you know, to called side or come into a gym large space socially distance by to allow the child to take off the mats for a bit to breed, feel comfortable and then you know, after a certain amount of time that distancing, put the masks back on and even go back to class or school, a school year is going to look a little different. You know, there's a little bit more time for hand wash than there ever would have been shaving a couple of minutes and we'll go to wash hands class is going to be these masks, recesses, capital lunchroom, the cafeteria will not really exist anymore. The guidance we provide the school boards, that will not be the case. It'll be lunch in the classroom. You know, it's going to be a little different. And I appreciate that that'll maybe be, you know, frustrating for the child perhaps. But I think most people recognize why we're changing that behavior to minimize contact to cause the child to screen them before they enter the school. To ensure aggressive testing to step up our query in a significant way to hire nurses, and to do more than I think we will demonstrate it already continued each and every week without exception for more money, more investment more people. And the fact is Canada and practice in this country materials plan is by far, but there's not a province in this country that has any of the areas we've invested in, I heard yesterday that they are building the school. I mean, we are well ahead. We have options for parents, although entering class, and we have prepared for the circumstances based on these challenges and school boards. I've done the work in preparing for and we're grateful for that. So we're just going to work hard. We're going to really appeal to the best interests and instincts of everyone involved in education to do their part. I don't care who you are. I want to thank you for your patience. Thank you for your advocacy. This is a tough, you know, I noticed a tough time a ton of choosing the context of online or in person. But what I can assure you is that the government's plan has been endorsed by the Chief Medical Officer of this province. We've sought the advice of sick kids. Some leading medical research hospitals in Canada, in pediatric hospice, including at the Children's Hospital in Ottawa, really, we're going above and beyond because when it comes to the health of your child and staff, we do whatever it takes. That kind of talking point is underscored by investments and by a commitment to keep wrapping it up. I think you're going to see us continuously doing work to get this right, and to keep these kids safe. And I just really appreciate your questions and your interest, and more importantly, your willingness to give ideas to us. And I want to thank God for really channeling many of those concepts to me, because many of the ones we've landed on are a result of the advocacy of parents, trustees, among others, who really made sure that we here and Billy's been an incredible champion. Just to make sure that those types of ideas are flowing directly to me, either via text message or late night textures or on calls, when is your voice. And I hope in the coming days, you see more of that action really manifest in a way that gives them confidence. But look, my two nieces in the system. Most of my cousins and aunts are getting largely capitalist system they teach, I have 100% of skin in the game to get this right. And so I just want to assure you that we will do whatever it takes. We have a solid plan in this country, we're stepping it up to do more. And I hope that provides the confidence you need to make your decision knowing that you have a choice in this province. And there'll be a better experience online as we try to change the culture in a system of education that has genuinely been opposed to changes in the last year I spent trying to make some changes and all my learning innovations, optimized systems will be 19th century but you know, that was opposed, but there's An opportunity I think that's really embraced you, and to give kids a better experience online, even if they start online and they want to go back and possibly. So thank you very much for the for the opportunity today for inviting me again. And thank you all to the trustees working so hard and to all the parents really appreciate this opportunity. I look forward to being back. I don't really we'll probably send me a text this way. Well, we should do this again. And I will happily accept as I always will, because I care deeply about this community is proud of the standard, Billy, just I guess two weeks ago, when we announced that our government will be delivering a new university, people are going to store investment. It's not my area college. It's not elementary school and high school childcare, but in the area of education, something I'm proud of, and I'm really excited to see as your residents I may have gotten to Western for my first degree, but I'm really proud of your University's solid institution. And I'm excited to see that open and I want to thank the league for One day your children will want to go to post-secondary.