The following ETFO media release was posted on February 3, 2021.
The Ford government’s plan to reopen schools in Ontario without adequate layers of protection in place risks future closures and a possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. To safely reopen schools, and to keep them open, which is everyone’s goal, the province must prioritize safety over political grandstanding.
“With new variants spreading in Ontario, the Ministry of Education must take urgent action to fund additional safety measures in schools, and they must provide school boards and Public Health Units (PHUs) sufficient time to implement them effectively,” says Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond. “The Ford government has not invested any new provincial money since August. They must stop taking credit for federal funding and invest now to avoid contributing to a third wave.”
“ETFO and others have said this on numerous occasions, but it is worth repeating since it takes the government so long to listen. While the measures they have finally put in place will help, they are not sufficient. Schools still need smaller classes, mandatory masking for Kindergarten, and CO2 monitors and portable air purification units in every classroom,” adds Hammond.
Critical investments should have and could have happened last summer. “After repeated urging from medical professionals and education partners, it took the Ministry over five months to mandate masking in grades 1 to 3 and to make asymptomatic testing available across the province. Ontarians deserve more than press conferences and false announcements; they deserve decisive action that unequivocally protects students, educators, their families and the community,” says Hammond.
The Ford government’s wait-and-see approach to managing the pandemic has left school boards and PHUs scrambling to ensure safety measures are in place in the hardest hit areas of Ontario in under two weeks—something we all know is impossible. Notes Hammond, “What we’re seeing is yet another instance of the Ministry downloading the real work of keeping students and staff safe to those who are already overburdened by this government’s failure to manage the spread of COVID-19.”