The Ontario government said it has developed a plan for the gradual and safe resumption of in-person instruction at post-secondary institutions across the province for the summer term. The plan was developed in consultation with the chief medical officer of health.
Starting in July 2020, limited in-person education and training may restart for students who were not able to graduate due to COVID-19 closures.
This first phase will allow institutions to reopen to provide in-person instruction to students in essential, front-line, and high labour market demand areas, such as nursing, personal support workers, engineering, and other critical professions. Thousands of students across the province could benefit from this summer's reopening, said a press release.
In September, all students will have the opportunity to attend post-secondary education through virtual learning, in-class instruction, or hybrid formats.
"Whether it's donating PPE (personal protective equipment), researching a vaccine or treatment, or helping with contact tracing, our students, researchers and post-secondary community in Ontario have stepped up in a big way to support our front-line health-care workers in response to COVID-19," said Premier Doug Ford in the release.
"Now, we have to have their backs and make sure our students can keep learning, in class or virtually, and become the next generation of front-line heroes, innovators and community builders."
The limited summer reopening will help individual institutions prepare for the fall term by ensuring proper health and safety protocols are in place. The province is developing a framework to be released to the sector in the coming days, which will provide guidance on the summer reopening and on health and safety measures.
Publicly assisted colleges and universities, Indigenous institutes, private career colleges, and other post-secondary education institutions may participate in this voluntary reopening. Institutions that choose to participate will be responsible for establishing their own plans for this limited reopening in accordance with public health advice and any ministry guidance.
"It's critical that we allow students to complete their studies and graduate so they can join the workforce in high-demand, front-line roles and help put the province back on the path to prosperity," said Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities, in the release.
"I will continue to collaborate with the post-secondary sector to determine how best to move forward on reopening our campuses in the fall and beyond in a way that is responsible and safe for our students and staff."
In order to maintain Ontario's position as a global leader in higher education and research, the government said it will also begin working on a digital and academic modernization framework this summer.
Through this exercise, it will look at unlocking the potential of virtual learning, adapting post-secondary education and training to meet the needs of a rapidly changing job market and economy, increasing the accountability of post-secondary education, developing the necessary physical and digital infrastructure, and fully realizing the value of research, innovation, and intellectual property licensing in the domestic and global marketplace.