For some Ontario post-secondary students, it's nearly time to head back to class. Minister of Ontario colleges and universities Ross Romano said on Wednesday, June 10 that students who couldn't graduate due to institutions closing down as a result of COVID-19 will be able to return to class in July to complete their courses. This could allow "thousands" of students to graduate this year, says the government.

Romano was speaking at the province's daily media briefing at Queen's Park.

There, he announced that select post-secondary students whose graduation relies on practical in-person studies will be allowed to return to school to complete these courses starting July 2.

Per an Ontario government release, this will apply to students "who were not able to graduate due to COVID-19 closures" and will focus on those in essential, frontline, and high labour market demand areas.

Those include nursing, personal support workers, engineering, and other critical professions. The release notes that thousands of students across the province could benefit from this summer's reopening.

Romano was alone at Wednesday's briefing, as Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott were going to get tested for COVID-19 after Education Minister Stephen Lecce was potentially exposed to the virus.

Lecce ultimately tested negative.

The government statement adds that publicly-assisted coleges and universities, Indigenous Institutes, private career colleges and other post-secondary education institutions can choose whether or not to participate in this voluntary reopening.

If they do decide to reopen, they will each be responsible for their own plans to safely open their doors again in line with public health advice.

The pilot starting on July 2 also aims to help get colleges up to speed for the fall term, however they intend to proceed. Back in mid-May, institutions around the province were already gearing up to move their fall semesters online.

It remains to be seen whether colleges and universities in Toronto will take part in this pilot.

Mayor John Tory said less than two weeks ago that he wants everyone in the city to work and study from home until at least September, where possible. 

Meanwhile, a statement from Premier Ford noted this is a way of making sure the province "has students' backs."

"Whether it's donating PPE, researching a vaccine or treatment, or helping with contact tracing, our students, researchers and postsecondary community in Ontario have stepped up in a big way to support our frontline health care workers in response to COVID-19," he said.

This update comes two days after Ford announced that most areas of the province are now in stage two of the recovery process.