The Ontario Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced $15 million to purchase thousands of classroom computers, and $10 million to hire additional mental health workers.
These new resources will help ensure students can return to school with the confidence and the tools they need to succeed. This funding represents the highest amount the Ministry of Education has ever dedicated to these two areas through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN).
Through consultations with Public Health Ontario, the Hospital for Sick Children and front-line workers, the government heard about the need for enhanced mental health supports to respond to COVID-19. This new $10 million investment will provide students with unprecedented direct access to regulated mental health professionals and significantly reduce wait times.
“The necessary emergency measures have posed significant risks to the mental health of kids who have been away from their support networks at school. It is to be expected that returning to school will also present unique challenges after a prolonged period of closures. Improving access to mental health professionals and other resources is good news for children and their families,” said Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children.
This funding announcement of $10 million is in addition to the government’s commitment of $25 million in permanent funding to hire approximately 180 front-line mental health workers in secondary schools across Ontario.
“We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted student mental health and well-being,” Lecce said. “That is why our government is significantly increasing investments in supporting the mental health of students as we prepare for the reopening of schools. This investment represents a considerable increase in mental health funding that will help ensure critical front-line and wrap-around supports are helping those Ontario students who need it most.”
The province also recognizes that access to technology is more important now than ever as students prepare for a new environment which could include both learning at home and in-person learning. That is why the government is providing $15 million to secure up to 35,000 classroom computers. This new technology will help ensure students who face difficulty accessing technology are able to leverage these tools to succeed in the 2020-21 school year.
“COVID-19 is forcing the world around us to change, to adapt, and to embrace the digital landscape,” Lecce added. “We will invest more in student computers, technology, and internet than any government in Ontario history because we want our youth to retain a competitive advantage. By delivering this funding, we are sending a signal to the country: Ontario is investing in our kids, closing the digital divide, and taking action to ensure all students have the best opportunity to learn when returning to school in the fall.”