The City of Toronto is helping students stay safe and healthy as they head back to school in the fall. While the Province and local school boards are responsible for the back to school plans, Toronto Public Health has been providing guidance to Toronto school boards on these plans to ensure a safer return to school for children.
Following the provincial announcement last week from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health notifying public health departments across Ontario that they could now begin recruitment to provide nursing support to schools, Toronto Public Health is establishing a team of more than 70 nurses including some experienced nurses and some newly recruited nurses to provide strong support to schools as they reopen. These nurses will be visible in schools and provide education and training sessions to school staff, parents and caregivers to promote infection prevention and control measures, and other public health advice to limit opportunities for virus spread.
Public health teams will also be providing mental health and well-being support in school settings, along with rapid-response outbreak investigation, case management and support the planning process for testing if a COVID-19 case is detected in a school setting. Toronto Public Health continues to plan for a potential second COVID-19 wave, school reopening, and to continue to provide other critical public health services while managing the COVID-19 response. This includes reassigning current staff and recruiting additional staff to scale up the City’s COVID-19 response.
Following the successful launch of City recreation initiatives this summer, including SwimTO, CampTO, ParksPlayTO and Summer in the 6IX, the City is gearing up to offer fall recreation programs beginning this October as well as After-school Recreation Care (ARC) and Community Leadership After-School Program (CLASP) this September. The City is Toronto’s largest provider of safe, fun and high-quality recreation programs for people of all ages, skill levels and interests.
Registration for fall recreation programming will take place from September 12 to 16. Torontonians can expect to see many of their favourite registered recreation programs, including swimming lessons, on offer this fall. The City will make use of its recreation facilities with some limitations and familiar safety measures in place. Fall recreation programs will be modified to comply with public health guidelines and provincial restrictions. The programs will run with reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing and to ensure that people can safely participate in indoor settings. Additionally, some programs won’t be able to resume if they require the sharing of equipment or food supplies. Modifications to programs and reduction in capacity are both necessary and familiar public health measures as COVID-19 continues to circulate in Toronto.
Currently, City facilities have enhanced cleaning protocols and screening measures. When people visit the City’s recreation facilities, they are required to sign in, complete a health screening and provide their name and contact information to facilitate Toronto Public Health contact tracing if needed. Masks or other cloth face coverings must be worn in all Toronto indoor public spaces but can be removed while swimming or exercising. Patrons should maintain physical distancing – staying two metres or six feet apart from others – while indoors. The public can expect these measures to remain in place throughout the fall.
Staff are continuing to be as creative as possible in planning for alternative programs or approaches to ensure residents still have the opportunity to participate in active, social and fun fall programming. Many community centres will also offer free recreation programs this fall, including leisure swimming and drop-in programs for children, youth and older adults. More information is available at toronto.ca/lowcostrecreation.
The City will also offer after-school recreation programs following the return to school this September. The City’s After-School Recreation Care (ARC) program, for children ages 6 to 12 years old, runs Monday to Friday from school dismissal until 6 p.m. and offers participants a range of after-school activities in a caregiving setting including sports, outdoor play, special events, creative activities and homework help. CLASP, aimed at children from 10 to 15 years old, is designed to enhance life skills by promoting physical literacy, health and wellness, and community involvement through leadership workshops.
ARC and CLASP programs will be running at 50 per cent capacity to allow for public health measures. More information about ARC is available at toronto.ca/arc. Registration for ARC programs will take place August 24.
More information about fall recreation and after school programs, public health measures and registration will be made available later this month on the City’s website at toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/recreation.
“As parents get ready to send their kids back to school, our city is working with the school boards and the Government of Ontario to do everything possible to reassure parents and to create a safe and healthy environment at schools across the city. Having greater public health resources available in schools will help us protect the progress we have made thus far while keeping children safe. This will be especially important as we introduce fall recreation programming and after-school care in September. I want to thank staff for developing these programs in a timely manner while putting the health and safety of kids and parents at the forefront.”
– Mayor John Tory
“Toronto Public Health has a strong and longstanding relationship with our local school boards and schools and has provided important public health guidance for many infectious diseases over time. Most people are familiar with our public health work with schools for measles, mumps and our school vaccine clinics to name a few. We look forward to our continued collaborative work with school boards to make sure that students have a safer return to school this fall and we continue to do our very best to keep limiting opportunities for COVID-19 spread in schools and in the community, as we learn to live with this virus.”
– Dr. Vinita Dubey, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health
“Following the guidance of our public health experts, we have come together as a city and significantly reduced the spread of COVID-19. Now, as we gear up for a new school year, the City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health are doing everything possible to keep kids safe by working directly with school boards. Re-opening schools safely is our highest priority and I know Toronto Public Health will do absolutely everything possible to keep Toronto’s kids safe and healthy. I am proud of the work that has been done, and know that we must continue to listen to our public health experts as we move into the fall and the next stage of our response to COVID-19.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.