Back to School Update for Private and Independent Schools

  • August 27, 2020
  • Amanda Dimilta

On August 25, 2020, education law expert Eric Roher of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP led a discussion regarding school re-opening plans for private and independent schools during the Covid-19 pandemic. The webinar provided a helpful summary of the recent regulations, guidelines and announcements which impact re-opening plans for schools.

Roher encouraged private and independent school administrators to follow the Ministry of Education’s “Guide to Re-opening Ontario’s Schools” released July 31, 2020. You can access this guide here (link).

Of particular interest to bakerlaw clients is PPM 164 “Requirements for Remote Learning”, which was released on August 13, 2020 and includes specific considerations for students with special education needs. Roher reminded school administrators that they must create learning options for students with pre-existing conditions. The PPM 164 can be found here (link).

Some students will struggle to wear a face covering throughout the school day. Roher pointed to the Toronto Public Health recommendation that educators schedule “mask breaks” for students under safe circumstances. Roher reminded administrators that they must accommodate students and teachers to the point of undue hardship, and that medical exemption documents must be respected.

Teachers and other staff members might request employment accommodations for pre-existing or current medical conditions, and they may qualify for sick leave or medical leave. Roher encouraged administrators to arrange for these individuals to work from home if possible, and to consider requests on a case by case basis.

Roher pointed out that there have been rumblings from teachers’ unions regarding possible action to the Ontario Labour Relations Board regarding unsafe working conditions. The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association members are also indicating their dissatisfaction with the current re-opening plans, which seem to evolve daily.

The session provided a helpful overview of the considerations faced by school administrators as they prepare their back to school plans for a school year like no other.

If you have concerns about student or staff accommodations at school related to disability and medical conditions, we invite you to contact bakerlaw to discuss if we may be of assistance.

Author: Amanda Dimilta

Amanda’s practice at bakerlaw focuses on cases in the area of Education Law and applications to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Her personal experience with navigating the challenges of the education system is an asset to our clients, and we are happy to have her as a member of the bakerlaw team.

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