Ontario is still planning on returning to school on Sept. 8 but that could still change. An announcement this afternoon by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce revealed an update to Ontario’s back-to-school plan. Lecce admitted that the province supports any district school boards who wish to stagger the beginning of their year.

On Thursday, August 13, Lecce confirmed the provincial government is investing $50 million into installing new HVAC systems in schools.

He was then asked whether the province has time to do this before the target return date of Sept. 8, and if restarts may have to be delayed. 

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Lecce admitted that if school boards officially ask to delay the start, he and the province will "support any concept to de-risk the circumstances for kids."

So, it turns out, if school boards want to stagger the days on which that students come back to schools, the province is all ears.

The announcement was also made in part to reveal that school districts are now able to access more funding.

They will be allowed to dip into their reserves on a "one-time" basis, says Lecce, for things such as enhancing physical distancing measures and hiring more staff. 

Additionally, Lecce hinted that those extra funds will allow school boards to find "alternative locations" where they can hold classes outside schools if space is a serious issue.

Some Ontarians, especially those with children, have already expressed disappointed in Lecce's announcement, as they have with much of the province's plan for the new academic year.

They were potentially hoping to hear that class sizes would be reduced

A petition calling for class sizes to be made drastically smaller has accumulated 223,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

And the hashtags #Unsafeseptember2020 and #UnsafeseptemberON have been trending on Twitter throughout Thursday as many residents make their feelings clear.

Even before Thursday's announcement, a variety of Ontario education unions and teacher's federations published a joint letter sent to Lecce.

Within the message, they accuse Ontario's government of failing to meet basic health and safety standards and endangering staff and students alike with its back-to-school plan.

The school year is set to start in just over three weeks, leaving little time for HVAC installation or plans to be drastically altered.