Ontario Education Minister discusses key issues with ethnic media

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce participates in virtual meeting with ethnic press. (File Picture)

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce held a virtual news conference addressing members of the multicultural media, touching on several issues including tough decisions his government made during the pandemic, expanded childcare for essential workers and changes to the math curriculum by September.

The minister said closing schools after the holidays was a ‘tough but necessary decision.’

“I was the first govt in the continent to close schools last year,”

Education Minister

“We have listened to the best medical minds in Canada, including SickKids Hospital,” he added defending the decision to open schools last September.

Updated and concerning data of transmission of COVID-19 during the holidays paved the way for closures this month, he said.

“It’s better to be cautious, let’s not risk the gains made.”

Over the coming weeks, there will be a variety of measures introduced including asymptotic testing in all schools including more PPE, cleaning for infection control, he added

Later, the minister expanded the list of workers who can access emergency childcare. The minister said the measures would benefit 500,000 Ontario workers.

“This includes our truck drivers, farmers, grocery store, pharmacy workers and others, who have worked tirelessly to keep food on the table & Ontario families safe throughout this pandemic,” he said

“We will continue to support front line workers across the province, including our healthcare heroes that are helping to combat COVID-19.”

The new additions for people who can receive childcare:

  • Individuals working in fuel distribution and oil refineries;
  • Education staff who are required to report to work in person while their children continue with remote learning;
  • Grocery store and pharmacy workers;
  • Truck drivers;
  • Farmers and those who support food or agricultural product supply chains;
  • Individuals involved in the collecting, transporting, storing, processing, disposing or recycling of any type of waste; and
  • Individuals working in the manufacturing and distribution of disinfectants and sanitizers.

Existing list:

• Front-line staff in Children’s Aid Societies and residential services
• Individuals working in developmental services, violence against women services, and anti-human trafficking
• Individuals working in victims’ services
• Individuals engaged in interpreting or intervenor services for persons who are deaf or deaf-blind
• Individuals working in a homeless shelter or providing services to homeless persons
• Food safety inspectors and individuals working in the processing, manufacturing or distribution of food and beverages
• Provincial court services personnel, including Indigenous court workers
• OPS staff employed in Radiation Protection Services
• RCMP and Canada Border Services
• Canada Post
• Pharma and medical device manufacturing and distribution
• Power workers
• Non-municipal water and wastewater workers
• Education staff who are required to attend schools to provide in-person instruction and support to students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning
• Employees of a hotel or motel that is acting as an isolation centre, health care centre, vaccine clinic or housing essential workers.

Lecce also said a new math curriculum would be introduced in the Fall, which would help students position themselves for modern job market, building knowledge in STEM and skilled trades.