WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Province says students will still be allowed to learn virtually in the next school year, but Minister of Education Stephen Lecce would not say whether or not students will go back to in-person learning in June.

Students in Ontario continue to learn online, from home, as part of the province’s current stay at home order, slated to expire on May 20th.

“Today is about looking forward to September,” said Lecce when asked, repeatedly, about the status of the current school year.

Lecce said the decision about whether or not to go back to in-person learning will be “lead” by advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, who Lecce says hasn’t changed his opinion about letting students return to school.

“Our hospitals face great levels of stress,” said Lecce, adding the Premier will “not take a risk with your child."

Lecce also called on the Federal Government to tighten restrictions at the land border crossings, to keep variants out of the Province.

Tuesday's news conference was for the Ministry to lay out the funding plan for the 2021-22 school year in September.

The Province plans to spend more than $1.6 billion for the 2021-22 school year.

Included in the funding is new investments in :

  • $383.6M for staffing
  • $40M (over 2 years) for remote learning
  • $29.4M for operating costs including ventilation systems
  • $20M for learning recovery of students “disproportionately” impacted by the pandemic

Investments in PPE, public health nurses in schools, voluntary asymptomatic testing, renewal of devices and transportation will continue into the next school year.

The Province says enrolment declined by 40,000 students in September 2021, specifically those in kindergarten.

Windsor-Essex students joined the province in its move to online learning after the spring break on April 19. At the time, medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said he did not expect students to be back in the classroom any time soon.

"Looking at what the provincial picture looks like, I am not confident that the province will make the call to go back to the classes next week or any time soon," he had said.

Local school board officials declined to comment until they got a look at the funding formula for themselves later Tuesday.

The Ministry intends to spend $20M to re-engage students, “including Black students, Indigenous students, and students from low-income households, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

School boards will also be allowed to dip into their reserves for a second straight year.

Boards will get $12,686 per student, through the “Grants for Student Needs” funding, which officials say is the highest amount in provincial history.