January 7, 2022
Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Director of Education
Toronto District School Board Trustee Alexander Brown
Toronto District School Board Chair
The Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
The Honourable Stephen Lecce, Education Minister
Re: Ontario Government to allow schools to remain open for in-person instruction for students with special education needs as part of the “Modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen” announced on January 3, 2022.
On behalf of Toronto Education Workers/Local 4400 and Elementary Teachers of Toronto, I ask that you exercise your authority under the Education Act and/or any other act to within your purview to temporarily dismiss all in-person learning at the Toronto District School Board including special education programs until January 17, 2022, to coincide with the provincial directive.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and more recently with the emerging presence of the Omicron variant communities across Toronto have continued to witness transmission rates significantly increase while children and education workers have experienced constant disruption to their academic, physical, and mental health.
The decision by the government of Ontario to delay the reopening of schools was a preventable although necessary intervention, which was further exacerbated by the decision to not prioritize education workers for boosters while also removing the ability to have access to testing to keep our schools open and safe. As a result of these reactionary measures families along with school boards are left scrambling to transition once again to a fractured model of virtual learning.
Given the prevalence and high transmissibility of the Omicron variant while understanding the unique distinction of special education programs at the TDSB such as our congregated sites and intensive support programs which are home to our most vulnerable immunocompromised students, the decision to allow the continuation of in-person learning during this time is another factor that has the potential in contributing to illness, severe outcomes and irreversible health implications which students and educational workers should not be exposed too.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
On behalf of the front-line education workers of the Toronto District School Board,
John Weatherup, President, Toronto Education Workers/Local 4400
Jennifer Brown, President, Elementary Teachers of Toronto