By MPP Toby Barrett

All aspects of our lives have been impacted by COVID-19. Although we have collectively made progress, the virus remains and we must be vigilant. There’s the worry of a second wave this fall and that’s why this week our Ontario Government presented parents and students with options for schooling. We also released Ontario’s new elementary math curriculum.

The math curriculum is getting favorable reviews by many who have long asked government for a program that teaches financial literacy and numeracy skills. The Ontario elementary math curriculum was last updated in 2005.

This new curriculum was developed over two years in consultation with parents, teachers, math education experts, and will reverse a decade of declining math scores. It will be available to students across Ontario this September. To view the new curriculum, please visit:
 https://www.dcp.edu.gov.on.ca/en/curriculum/elementary-mathematics
Our government made a promise to parents we would fix Ontario’s broken education system, and we’d return to basics by teaching children the math fundamentals they need for lifelong success. The new Grade 1-8 curriculum includes the teaching of financial literacy, as well as computer coding — critical skills that will prepare kids for success in the modern world and workplace. Further, students in Grade 3 and 6 will not participate in the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) assessments during the 2020-2021 school year, as the ministry works to align the assessments with the new curriculum.

As you are likely aware, the Ontario Government has asked school boards to prepare three different scenarios to ensure students and teachers can safely return to their classes in September.

The first is based on an everyday normal school routine, in a standard size class, with enhanced public health protocols.

The second is a modified school day that would be designed for physical distancing and cohosting. This model would maintain a limit of 15 students in a classroom at once. Timetabling would require students to remain in contact only with their classmates and a single teacher for much of the day. This would require alternate day or alternate week delivery to a segment of the class at one time.

Thirdly, is at home learning. Should the school closure be extended, or should some parents choose not to send their child(ren) back to school, boards will be prepared to offer remote education.

These scenarios were created following extensive consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, health experts on the COVID-19 Command Table, medical experts at The Hospital for Sick Children, front-line workers, parents, students and our education sector partners – including teacher and education worker unions. My office held a roundtable whereby a handful of teachers and healthcare workers gave their feelings and professional advice – we truly appreciate their well-thought out input.

We are taking every precaution, investing more, and listening to the best medical advice in the country to keep students, staff, and families safe. We want to assure parents that safety is our guiding principle and the right supports are being put in place to ensure students are set up for success.

New funding has been announced to hire additional custodial staff to ensure schools are clean and safe.

While it all seems overwhelming, I have no doubt we will all pull together to ensure success. I look forward to seeing the results of the new math curriculum, and always value feedback you may have.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk