Education Minister Stephen Lecce this morning announced additional funding of $25 million for more ventilation improvements so schools will be ready to welcome students returning to in-person learning this fall.
The minister made the announcement at St. Robert Catholic School in Thornhill. He was joined by Markham-Thornhill MPP Logan Kanapathi, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Karim Kurji, medical officer of health for York Region.
“Under this plan, students will return to a more normal in-person, full-time learning experience,” Lecce said during the press conference. “We know parents and experts have urged us to do this. In-person learning is crucial for their mental and physical health, their overall well-being and the long-term success of our students.”
The $25 million announced today purchased approximately 20,000 stand-alone HEPA filter units for facilities and rooms that don’t have access to mechanical ventilation. They will also be deployed in all junior and senior kindergarten classes, Lecce said, to add an extra layer of protection for young students who aren’t required to wear masks.
The funds are in addition to the $100 million announced during the last school year, which is being used to upgrade and improve school ventilation systems before the new school year starts in September.
Ontario also partnered with the federal government to fund HVAC and other improvements, bringing the total taxpayer investment to more than $600 million on more than 2,000 ventilation projects.
“We are following the best expert advice by ensuring all schools have improved air ventilation, including deploying an additional 20,000 HEPA units, in total over 70,000 ventilation devices, to help ensure schools remain as safe as possible,” Lecce said in a release. “With the work we have done, I am confident we will keep students and staff safe in our schools as we reopen for the 2021-22 school year.”
Ontario is also providing school boards with a standardized reporting tool on ventilation improvements to ensure ventilation requirements are being met, and makes that information publicly available.