WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Ontario Liberal Party unveiled a fully-costed plan on Monday to get Windsor-Essex students back into classrooms no larger than 15 students.

Leader Steven Del Duca’s Students in Schools Action Plan calls for 500 new classroom locations, the hiring of 490 additional educators and 240 additional caretakers in Windsor-Essex.

Del Duca said these measures enable safe, physically-distanced learning, which is the first step in getting parents back to work and reopening the economy.

"Students and their parents in Windsor-Essex have been waiting for far too long to hear what will happen in September,” said Del Duca in a news release. “Living with this uncertainty has caused unnecessary anxiety during what has already been a stressful time. Getting our students back to school safely is what kids critically need for their own development and it’s the only way their Moms and Dads can have peace of mind to return to work.

“Since the government hasn't unveiled a plan for the fall, I did,” said Del Duca.

The provincial government has released some details on reopening schools and more information is expected to be released on Aug. 4.

“We need students in classrooms and we know that while distance learning obviously needs vast improvement as a complement to future learning, the high quality and safe in-class experience needs to be front and centre in our plans for this fall,” added Del Duca.

Windsor Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin says as a city, they need to be willing to work with the province, with the school boards on anything that makes sense.

“People and parents need to know what to expect come September,” says Bortolin.

Bortolin says obviously there’s going to be a lot of questions.

“Funding of course is top of mind, but at the end of the day we need to be prepared to work with any of our community partners.”

Del Duca’s Students in Schools Action Plan would cost $3.2 billion* and would fund:

  • - 15,000 More Elementary Teachers to reduce class size to 15 $1.30 billion
  • - 10,000 More Caretakers to keep elementary and secondary schools clean $500 million
  • - 14,000 New Classrooms in Community Centres, Campuses, Arenas, etc. $200 million
  • - 2,000 More Secondary Teachers $170 million
  • - School Transportation (Cleaning, Retrofits, Staggered Starts) $80 million
  • - Sufficient Cleaning/Hygiene Supplies and Equipment $120 million
  • - 1,500 Special Education Professionals to Help Close Learning Gaps $120 million
  • - New equipment for students and educators (approx. 400,000 new devices) $200 million
  • - Reverse PC Cuts to School Mental Health and hire 1,000 more Mental Health Professionals to support staff and students $75 million
  • - Provincial Leadership in Centrally Procuring and Purchasing Personal Protective
  • Equipment for Students and Staff (e.g., face shields, masks, gloves) $110 million
  • - Support Parental Engagement and Communication $25 million
  • - Public Health Coordination of Screening, Testing and Contact Tracing N/A
  • - Contingency (10%) $290 million

*This is a one-time funding plan for the 2020-21 school year, after which, a vaccine may likely be available. Regardless, the government should begin planning for 2021-22 as early as possible.