Joint Open Letter to Premier Doug Ford: The Ontario Government Must Stop the Misinformation and Provide the Resources to Ensure Student Success Online and a Safe Environment When Schools Reopen

January 7, 2021

Joint Open Letter to Premier Doug Ford: The Ontario Government Must Stop the Misinformation and Provide the Resources to Ensure Student Success Online and a Safe Environment When Schools Reopen

January 7, 2021

The Honourable Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Premier’s Office, Room 281
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Doug Ford,

Early this week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce publicly stated that every educator in the province was provided with professional development to support the delivery of remote, synchronous learning.

This training never happened.

To date, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has not provided any such professional development to educators. Disparate and incomplete online resources have been made available, but nothing that would constitute training.

Despite having months to prepare for a COVID-19 crisis that you were warned was coming, your government has again left educators and students without the tools and technology needed to deliver the world-class education that our parents and students expect.

This is not an isolated incident. Your government’s ill-conceived and underfunded plans, and refusal to listen to experts, has failed our schools and students time and again throughout this pandemic.

ACTION #1: Your government must listen to public health and education experts and take every action to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Don’t downplay the risk in our schools, as you have in the past.

When brick and mortar schools reopen and in-person attendance resumes, your government must provide immediate funding to ensure safety in our schools for our students and educators.

Earlier this year you promised to spare no expense when it comes to providing a safe and supportive learning environment. Our families, communities, and Ontarians everywhere need you to live up to this commitment and stop drawing from the same failed austerity-driven playbook.

This pandemic has had a disproportionate and negative impact on our marginalized communities, particularly in racialized and low-income families, which your policies to-date have only exacerbated.

Your government must correct course to ensure that our most vulnerable are not left behind.

As educators, we believe that students are best served by high quality in-person learning. This cannot happen unless our schools are safe.

ACTION #2: Your government must provide funding and direction in brick and mortar schools to:

  • hire more educators to achieve smaller class sizes, so that students and educators can adhere to the two meters of physical distancing mandated everywhere else in Ontario;
  • provide appropriate levels of medical grade PPE for all educators and masks for all students;
  • ensure that all classes have functioning windows that open and close, as well as modern ventilation systems with HEPA filters;
  • hire more cleaning staff for the regular deep cleaning and sanitizing of classrooms and shared spaces and more in-school nurses to assist with screenings and managing potential outbreaks;
  • institute an ongoing program of asymptomatic testing in schools until COVID-19 has been eradicated; and
  • establish mobile vaccination sites for teachers and education workers for voluntary vaccination.

Your government must also address the growing crisis in our virtual schools, where a lack of funding and resources has led to a warehousing of students and left educators without the tools and training to do their job as professionals.

What’s happening in our virtual schools across Ontario is incoherent. Without proper planning and consultation, your government has created a situation where school boards do as they see fit, leading to province-wide discrepancies and a lack of parity, equity, and fairness.

In the TDSB, teachers in virtual schools have not received any budget for teaching resources. To teach their classes, they have been buying what they need out of their own pockets, sometimes to replace the outdated and insufficient technology provided by the Board to teach online. The TDSB has been made aware of this issue and has apparently set aside funds to reimburse educators, but has yet to do so.

This is not right. Our hard working educators, who, already enduring an incredibly stressful situation, should not be using their own money to pay for what are essential teaching materials and resources.

At this time, with schools closed and classes almost exclusively online, teachers are being expected to do more with less. This a deeply inequitable situation compounded by the fact that our educators have not had the time to learn the new skills required to transition.

Furthermore, educators are expected to use the time outside the instructional day to meet these new, unrealistic demands, taking valuable hours away from their families to learn and develop brand new methods of teaching, reporting, and assessing, as well as how to engage their students in a new and unfamiliar medium.

ACTION #3: Your government must provide funding and direction in virtual schools to:

  • provide schools with the up-to-date technology so that educators can properly implement remote, synchronous learning in virtual schools and when brick mortar schools are closed due to COVID-19 outbreak;
  • give educators the digital resources and supports necessary to provide the education our students deserve;
  • fund supports for students, including access to devices and the internet.
  • make certain educators have sufficient release time to be trained for any new initiative; and
  • stop downloading and adding on to educators’ workload, work that is typically done by other unions.

For the safety of our students, educators, and communities, and for the future of our shared public education system, your government must take the actions outlined in this letter and properly fund our schools.  This will enable educators to continue to deliver world-class learning when in-person attendance resumes. Our students and educators need you to do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Linda Bartram
Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit – District 12 President

Jennifer Brown
Elementary Teachers of Toronto President

Rob Fulford
ETFO Toronto Occasional Teachers President

John Weatherup
CUPE 4400 President

Leslie Wolfe
OSSTF Toronto President

CC:

Karen Falconer, TDSB Director
TDSB Trustees
Stephen Lecce, Ontario Minister of Education
Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Andrea Horwath, Leader, Official Opposition
Steven Del Duca, Leader, Ontario Liberal Party
Mike Schreiner, Leader, Ontario Green Party
Marit Stiles, MPP Davenport and Official Opposition Education Critic
Toronto MPPs
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto

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