Province invests millions to improve schools for a safe return to the classroom

The Ontario Government announced $25 million to improve ventilation for schools in Simcoe Muskoka and across the province.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the investment would ensure all occupied classrooms, gyms, libraries, and other instructional spaces without mechanical ventilation have standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units.

Over 20,000 standalone HEPA devices are being deployed to schools this year in addition to the 50,000 sent to schools previously.

Lecce said the remaining funding would be given to school boards to purchase additional HEPA units as needed.

Ontario's Science Advisory Table has said standalone HEPA filter units are a necessary tool for classrooms and spaces challenged to provide adequate ventilation.

School boards can also use a new reporting tool to provide information on ventilation improvements that will be accessible to the community.

Tuesday, the province released its back-to-school plan. The 26-page report included resuming assemblies, library facilities and some extra-curricular activities.

Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but Grades 1 and higher must mask up indoors.

CTV News spoke to Minister Lecce in July about the fall semester. He said it was their obligation to get all students back to class full time.

"We allocated a $1.6 billion investment to retain public health measures that worked well.... the difference this September vs last September is vaccines... we want to encourage more families and youth 12 and up to get the vaccine." Lecce concluded, "It literally is going to be the single greatest way we defend ourselves from the potential spread of COVID-19 in the community."