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TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford says that “no idea is a ridiculous idea” when it comes to finding ways to allow children to return to school full-time amid a global pandemic this fall, including the use of outdoor learning “as much as possible.”

The provincial government has asked school boards to create three separate plans for the resumption of classes this fall with those plans being based upon online learning only, a hybrid model with children attending classes in-person on alternating days or weeks and the fulltime resumption of in-person instruction. 

Officials have said that the different plans are necessary given the still evolving risk posed by COVID-19, however Ford told reporters during his daily briefing on Wednesday that the goal of his government is “to get children back in class safely five days a week,” at least at the elementary level. 

He said that in order to do that, however, there may be a need to get “creative” in finding solutions. 

“I was talking to a teacher the other day and a school board trustee and I just sort of said off the cuff that the big highlight when I was going to school was that the teacher would say we are going to have class outside under a tree and I said ‘Is that a ridiculous question?’ and they said ‘no, that is what we are pushing for at our board,’” he said, referencing one possible approach. “At least in September, weather permitting, the kids can go outside as much as possible and learn outside. We just have to adapt and try to get through this especially though September. October and November hopefully we will see some real positive numbers.” 

Ford’s comments on Wednesday come on the heels of a release of a new poll commissioned by NewsTalk 1010, which found that 64 per cent of Canadians believe that the time has come for students to return to the classroom. 

That same poll also found an appetite for innovative solutions. For instance, 73 per cent of respondents said that they supported using shuttered movie theatres as classrooms in order to ensure physical distancing among secondary school students. 

“I have always said that in business and in politics no idea is a ridiculous idea,” Ford said on Wednesday. “Let’s come up with ideas. We are all in this together. We need the parents ideas, we need the teachers and the school boards and the ministry and most of all we need the kids.”

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