By Monika Sidhu—

Starting September 2021, students going into Grade 9 will no longer have to choose between academic or applied level math courses. Premier Doug Ford announced this during his daily briefing on Wednesday as the first step to end streaming in the first year of highschool. 

This past Monday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced it would be eliminating the streaming program for Grade 9 students which guides students to applied or academic level courses which disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous students. 

“ At this age, everyone needs the same foundations for learning. Everyone needs the same opportunity for lifelong success. Streaming, it leaves students behind. At a young age, one decision can exclude a student from a world of opportunities later in life,” said the premier. 

Ford expressed additional concerns that streaming was wrong and it was something that needed to be fixed. 

“Our Black, Indigenous and radicalized students face more social and economic barriers to success than their fellow students and that’s just not right. They deserve the same shot at their dreams as any young person their age.”

Ford announced reform for primary suspensions for kindergarten to Grade 3. Lecce later added to this point stating the reform to be of “discretionary” suspensions and that serious suspensions will continue to be in place. 

Ford also spoke on the zero tolerance for racism, homophobia and any kind of hateful speech and behaviour in the classroom. 

The premier added that there will be the penalties for any teacher that uses hateful behaviour or slurs. “They’re done and they’re gone,” he said. 

Lecce added to this conversation by saying they will be working with the Ontario College of Teachers to “strengthen sanctions for racists behaviours and remarks within our classrooms.”

The education minister said they will also be creating mandatory anti-racism training for teachers and all trustees. 

The daily address also featured Jamil Jivani, Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities. Jivani spoke on his experiences with streaming in the education system noting that many people who experience streaming would not be able to find themselves speaking at a podium beside Ontario’s premier. 

“I stand with those who have their futures limited by previous policies and I’m committed to making a difference for the next generation,” he said.

Jivani mentioned he was grateful to seeing Ford trying something new in the education system by eliminating streaming. He also gave mention to Black voices in the community that were working hard to make changes in the Ontario school system. 

There was limited COVID-19 news today with most questions surrounding how the school reopening will work and what parents should expect. Lecce proposed a plan with three different potential options: the first option is going back with increased safety precautions in-class; second, going to an online platform; and third, a blended option which would include students in cohorts of 15. 

Reporters asked for clarification several times on a more thought out plan for September to which Lecce replied with needing to have a plan for any possible circumstance and why they have been working so hard at creating online plans and cohorting models among other things. 

“If there’s a lesson learned by COVID-19 it’s to be ready for the unknown.” 

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