As students return to school, our government is taking a balanced and cautious approach to ensure our schools remain safe and open for in-person learning for the full school year.

As a father of three, I know firsthand the challenges our children and families have faced this past year. I also know our teachers and frontline workers continue their incredible efforts to keep our children and community safe, and I want to thank them for their tremendous work and dedication.

While important progress is being made in the delivery of vaccines – more than 70 percent of Ontarians 12 and older have received two doses – we will continue to follow expert medical guidance to maximize the safety and minimize risk.

Led by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and our local Public Health Units, we have updated our screening tools which will serve as the first line of defence against COVID-19 in our schools. These tools will focus on five main categories of symptoms most associated with COVID-19. For the first two weeks, active on-site screening will also be in place.

These precautions align with the province’s broader reopening plan and are part of the strong actions our government is taking to help make sure that our students and staff can return to the safest learning environment possible.

The precautionary actions being taken are fully funded with a $1.6 billion investment; I am proud that our government is investing more in public education than any government in Ontario’s history for the third straight year. This included an investment of over $600 million to support our commitment for system-wide improvements in ventilation and air quality to keep our schools safe.

Building on our nation leading plan, and as part of our last mile strategy, we will continue to collaborate with public health units and school boards to host vaccination clinics in or nearby schools during the first few weeks of school. Doing so will make it more accessible and convenient for eligible students and their families, as well as educators and school staff to receive their vaccine in a familiar and comfortable environment.

As we welcome our students back to school, I want to wish everyone a healthy, safe, and successful school year.