Back to School

Published on September 07, 2021


KENORA-RAINY RIVER As students head back to class for full-time, in-person learning, MPP GREG RICKFORD provided the following statement:

“I am excited to welcome students across the Kenora-Rinay River Riding back to class for a more-normal, in-person learning experience, supported by new upgrades in ventilation.

We know that in-person learning is essential for the mental and physical health, academic achievement, and overall well-being of our young people. That is why our government has provided more than $1.6 billion in resources to protect against COVID-19, comprehensive safety protocols, and ensured that all schools across Ontario have benefited from improvements in ventilation. These actions have been undertaken on the advice of medical experts and our plan to return kids to classrooms has been fully approved by the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

As part of our efforts to improve ventilation air quality in education settings, all schools have implemented ventilation measures. Locally, and in addition to the $1.4 billion our government invests in updating and building schools annually, support has been provided to support improvements at local schools under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, to strengthen protections against COVID-19, including air ventilation. Across the province, we have provided a total of more than $600 million dollars to support improved ventilation at schools.

  • In the Kenora and Rainy River Districts our government has invested in improving ventilation systems across the Keewatin Patricia and Rainy River School boards. ($822,800 for Keewatin Patricia HVAC , $ 2.3M for Rainy River HVAC, $313,800 for Kenora Catholic HVAC, $171,000 for Northwest Catholic HVAC. )

Thanks to our province’s investments and with the support of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, families in the Kenora and Rainy River districts can be confident that every effort has been made to ensure schools are as safe as possible for students heading back to class this September.”


“I am proud of all Ontario students as they return to safer schools, supported by significant upgrades in HVAC systems and ventilation, and the deployment of 70,000 HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices into learning spaces across our province. Ontario’s cautious plan will support quality learning and safer schools through enhanced ventilation, mental health promotion, and additional supports in reading and math.”

- Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education


Return of In-Person Learning and Protecting Against COVID-19

· In the 2021-22 school year, students across the province will:

o Return to in-person learning for the full school day, though synchronous remote learning will remain an option;

o Learn in classrooms supported by physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning;

o Participate in extracurricular activities, clubs, music and the arts, both within the school and through inter-school sport. Public health units may recommend or direct additional measures or modifications based on local context; and

o Benefit from improved ventilation and other air quality infrastructure upgrades, including HEPA filter units in all kindergarten classrooms and in all learning spaces that are not connected to mechanical ventilation systems.

· Making Ontario’s return to school as safe as possible is supported by significant investments, including more than $1.6 billion in targeted COVID-19 supports, and $85.5 million in learning recovery and renewal to help students overcome any learning gaps the pandemic has created.

· Of the $1.6 billion in COVID-19 supports, the Ontario government has allocated $383.6 million for additional staffing to facilitate physical distancing and reduce class sizes.

· Supported by the province’s COVID-19 strategy, as well as other provincial funding, Ontario is dedicating more than $80 million in funding for student mental health supports. This is more than four times the investments made in 2017-18 under the previous government.

Ventilation Improvements

· Improving air quality in schools is critically important for keeping school communities safe from COVID-19. That’s why more than $600 million has been provided to improve school ventilation and filtration, following emerging scientific advice throughout the pandemic. That’s on top of the $1.4 billion in annual funding we provide to school boards to renew school facilities, including HVAC and windows.

· To improve air quality at schools with mechanical ventilation, we are instructing boards to use the highest-grade filters – MERV-13 where possible – perform more frequent filter changes, operate air systems longer, and calibrate HVAC systems for maximum air flow and fresh air intake.

· As a result of our investment and focus on improving air quality, and commitment to follow the best advice of pediatric experts, to date:

o 99.8% of the systems have been assessed

o 99% of schools are using higher grade filters and/or have increased frequency of filter changes

o 99% of schools are running ventilation systems longer

o 99% of schools have increased fresh air intake

o $600 million invested, including in over 2,000 projects to improve air ventilation.

o An additional 20,000 HEPA filters added in every kindergarten class and in all learning spaces without mechanical ventilation, now totalling 70,000 standalone HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices purchased

· In the interest of transparency, school boards have publicly posted a standardized public reporting tool on ventilation improvements.