ETT Responds to COVID-19

ETT Responds to COVID-19

ETT and ETFO have called on the government, the Ministry of Education, relevant health agencies, and the TDSB to consult with educators to help ensure a safe and healthy return to schools and classrooms in September.

Provincially, ETFO has submitted 40 recommendations to the Ontario Ministry of Education calling for:

  • meaningful consultation with Unions at the provincial and local level to ensure return plans fit local circumstances;
  • flexibility with curriculum and assessment to provide for a longer period of adjustment as schools reopen;
  • additional funding for PPE and to meet COVID-19 health measures, including social distancing, handwashing, deep cleaning of schools, and safe transportation; and
  • additional health and safety initiatives and workload considerations.

Locally, ETT has:

  • sent an open letter to TDSB Interim Director Carlene Jackson, bringing forward recommendations and questions from our members and their call for action for a safe September.
  • created a petition calling on Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health, to form a joint workgroup with the TDSB and teachers on the ground and in the Union to support a safe return to schools; and
  • developed a form for members to submit their COVID-19 and reopening concerns.

Stay safe this summer, and please know that ETT and ETFO are continuing to work to ensure your health and safety and that of the students in your care.

Open Letter to Interim TDSB Director Carlene Jackson

July 27, 2020

Interim Director Carlene Jackson
Toronto District School Board
5050 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M2N 5N8

Dear Carlene Jackson,

As September approaches, it is essential that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) have clear COVID-19 protocols in place and the necessary emergency funding from the Ontario Government to ensure the health and wellbeing of our students, parents, teachers, education workers, and communities.

Our teachers, the 11,000 members of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT), have been in daily contact with us, as their union, to express their concerns and to share their professional judgement on how to achieve a safe September.

As ETT President, I am writing to bring these recommendations and questions to your attention, so that we can continue to work collaboratively as the TDSB prepares for a safe return to schools.

Our members are vigilant, and, come September, will report on the effectiveness of the Board’s COVID-19 response and whether it’s keeping our students and classrooms safe.

Since this pandemic began, our members have gone above and beyond to support our students’ learning, and these concerns demonstrate a continuation of that dedication to public education.

These recommendations and questions are varied, but they have a commonality: teacher safety is student safety. Safe working conditions for teachers means safe learning conditions for students, and, beyond that, increased safety for families and in our communities.

Unfortunately, the provincial government has not committed the necessary funding to keep our schools safe this fall.

Our schools need smaller class sizes, with the requisite additional staff, so students and educators can adhere to physical distancing requirements.  Our schools also need sufficient funding for additional cleaning and sanitizing, personal protective equipment, and hand washing facilities, among other essentials.

It is imperative, for the safety of our students, our educators, and our communities, that the TDSB call on the Ontario Government to provide the necessary emergency funding amidst this pandemic.

On behalf of our members, I urge you to take action to properly fund our schools and incorporate the recommendations and respond to the questions from frontline teachers as you prepare to deliver your finalized model for reopening schools.


Jennifer Brown
ETT President


TDSB Trustees
Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Stephen Lecce, Ontario Minister of Education
Sam Hammond, ETFO President
Toronto MPPs

Key Recommendations From Teachers for the TDSB to Safely Reopen Schools

The Ontario Government Must Provide Sufficient Emergency Funding

  • The TDSB must take action and call on the Ontario Government to provide sufficient emergency funding to keep our schools safe.

Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Teachers

  • The TDSB must provide PPE and masks to all teachers and education workers.
  • Training must be provided on how to use PPE and how to safely put on and take off PPE.

Ensure Class Size Equity

  • The TDSB’s full-return model calls for class sizes of 20 students in Grades 4 to 8.
  • Class sizes in Grades 4 to 8 should match those in Kindergarten to Grade 3 and High School (15 students per cohort).

Send Home Students and Teachers Exhibiting COVID-19 Symptoms

  • The TDSB’s protocols must ensure that students, teachers, and other staff exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are quarantined and sent home immediately, followed by prompt contact tracing if there is a positive COVID-19 case.
  • The TDSB must send a notice of risk to all students, parents, teachers, and other staff if there is a positive COVID-19 case in a school.
  • Teachers that exhibit symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 should be sent home, as per the Miscellaneous Leave provisions in the Collective Agreement regarding quarantine, receiving full pay without having to access sick days.

Addressing Anti-Black Racism and COVID-19 Bias

  • The TDSB must recognize the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on Black and other marginalized communities, and ensure that equity informs every step of its reopening protocols and guidelines.
  • The TDSB must address the systemic racism students and teachers experience in schools and work with the union to improve its procedures for reporting racism.

Support for the Mental Wellbeing of Students and Teachers

  • The TDSB must provide additional mental health resources for members and students confronting increased stress as a result of COVID-19.

Provide Accommodation for Teachers and Students at High-Risk from COVID-19

  • The TDSB must ensure accommodation for teachers and students, and their families, at high-risk from COVID-19.

Clear and Consistent Communication

  • The TDSB must provide clear and consistent communication to all students, parents, teachers, and other staff regarding COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.

Equity and Flexibility in Planning, Curriculum, and Workload

  • The TDSB must provide teachers with sufficient and flexible time to plan and adjust to the Board’s finalized model for returning to schools.
  • To help students and teachers adjust, additional flexibility must be provided in regards to curriculum and assessment.
  • The TDSB must ensure equitable workload between core and prep teachers.

Provide Necessary Technology and Training

  • The TDSB must provide teachers with sufficient access to technology and training to accommodate the new challenges of in-class instruction and any remote learning that may be required.

Respect the Rights of Teachers

  • All TDSB COVID-19 protocols and guidelines must comply with our Collective Agreement and teachers should not be asked to perform additional duties outside of the agreement.
  • Provisions regarding lunch supervision must be upheld.

Revisit and Postpone Performance Appraisals

  • The TDSB must revisit the Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA) and New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) to ensure that they can properly support teachers requiring mentorship given distancing and other COVID-19 related health and safety requirements.
  • The TDSB should consider postponing all evaluation scheduled for the 2020-2021 school year.

Minimize Exposure of Centrally Assigned Teachers

  • Centrally Assigned teachers should be limited to one school assignment to minimize exposure.

Ensure Safety of Students and Teachers in ISP

  • The TDSB must provide protocols to address the exposure concerns in Intensive Support Programs (ISP), as there may be issues supporting high-risk students while maintaining physical distancing.
  • The TDSB must also recognize that exposure to bodily fluids is greater in ISP classes and settings and establish protocols and provide resources to minimize risk.

Key Concerns and Questions From Teachers to be Addressed by the TDSB to Safely Reopen Schools

Proper Physical Distancing

  • What are the TDSB’s physical distancing protocols? How do they differ by area and/or activity? What are the distancing protocols in classrooms, at lunch, in washrooms, and on the playground?
  • How are teachers to maintain physical distancing with their youngest learners?
  • What are the protocols for parents picking-up and dropping off students?

Enhanced Cleaning Protocols

  • What are the TDSB’s enhanced cleaning protocols in schools?
  • Will the Board hire additional caretaking staff to meet the requirements of its enhanced cleaning protocols?
  • How will the enhanced cleaning protocols ensure safety in Kindergarten classes and in shared spaces, such as daycares, where toys are shared? Will toys be regularly cleaned? If so, who will do the cleaning? As per the Collective Agreement, this is not the responsibility of teachers.
  • How will the enhanced cleaning protocols ensure safety in music classes where instruments are shared? Will instruments be regularly cleaned? If so, who will do the cleaning? As per the Collective Agreement, this is not the responsibility of teachers.

Hand Washing Protocols

  • Will the TDSB provide every classroom with soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer?
  • What are the plans for classrooms that do not have a sink for hand washing? Will portable hand washing stations be installed?
  • What are the hygiene protocols for students at lunchtime?

Students and Staff Exhibiting COVID-19 Symptoms

  • What are the TDSB’s protocols for students and staff exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms?
  • Will there be temperature checks? If so, who will administer them? As per the Collective Agreement, this is not the responsibility of teachers.
  • What are the TDSB’s quarantine procedures for students and/or staff exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms?
  • How will COVID-19 incidents be communicated to Toronto Public Health?
  • Will classrooms be disinfected if a student or staff member shows symptoms?
  • Under what circumstances will schools close?

Schools in Neighbourhoods with High COVID-19 Case Numbers

  • What are the TDSB’s protocols for schools in neighbourhoods with high COVID-19 case numbers?
  • Will there be different protocols for schools in neighbourhoods with high COVID-19 case numbers, such as additional enhanced cleaning and monitoring?
  • Will schools be closed in neighbourhoods where COVID-19 cases are surging?

Schools with Poor Ventilation and Air Flow

  • What are the TDSB’s plans and protocols for open-concept schools and schools where ventilation, lack of air flow, excessive heat, and windowless classrooms are a concern?

As we prepare for the final weeks of the 2019-2020 school year and look towards the summer recess, there are still many unanswered questions as to what we may expect this September.

While we have yet to receive fulsome information from the Ministry of Education, please know that your leadership at ETT has been working tirelessly on your behalf to ensure that any potential return is done so safely.

ETT is monitoring the changing situation regarding COVID-19, providing input to the TDSB with regards to teacher and student safety, and pushing back as necessary. We are also working with the Joint Health and Safety Committee, the Health and Safety Department, as well as the Board itself.

While much of this work is happening behind the scenes, members can be assured that our collective voices are being heard.

Thank you to members who have completed the recent Health and Safety survey. We have heard your concerns regarding:

  • Person Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • availability of soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer;
  • class sizes and congregated classes;
  • air quality;
  • water fountains and washrooms;
  • school buses;
  • library books;
  • school supplies;
  • violence;
  • mental health supports; and
  • much more.

In the event that schools re-open, there is much that must be done to ensure the safety of teachers, the students in our care, and other school staff. We appreciate that the last few months have been very difficult in so many ways. Please, stay safe and know that ETT is taking action to ensure your health and safety.

Should you have any further Health and Safety concerns, please respond with your thoughts and concerns using the form provided below.

Health and Safety Concerns Regarding the Potential Return to Schools and COVID-19

ETFO Back to School Survey

Should schools open in September? What is needed? How should government and boards ensure safety? Should masks be mandatory?

Please take five minutes to complete this survey.

Access the Back to School Survey and Help ETFO Advocate for a #SafeSeptember

MPP Contact Form: Fund a Safe Return to School

The Ontario government is planning for a return to school in September but they have not committed the funding schools need to ensure that students and educators remain safe and healthy.

Contact your MPP now to share your concerns and demand that the government provide appropriate funding to ensure a safe return to school.

Add YOUR Voice to the Call for a Safe Return to School

On June 18, 2020, ETFO provided a submission on behalf of public elementary educators in response to the government’s consultation on the reopening of schools.

ETFO’s recommendations to the Ministry of Education focus on ensuring the health and safety of students, staff and their families while supporting quality learning across the province.

Download ETFO’s Submission to the Ministry of Education on Ontario’s Plan to Reopen Schools [PDF]

ETT is advising all members with medical conditions that may be exacerbated as a result of a return to school in September to seek medical advice from a physician at the earliest opportunity.

As we await confirmation of a return-to-work model for September, the TDSB has provided ETT with assurances that they will continue to provide medical accommodations for employees subject to the provision of appropriate medical documentation.

ETT Office Remains Active to Serve Members

In order to serve our members, the ETT Office will remain active during the period in which schools are closed and Executive Officers will continue to respond to members’ inquiries and issues remotely.

Please be advised that we will be limiting access to the physical ETT Office space at 4211 Yonge Street. Members should direct all issues by phone or email to their Executive Officer. Members are asked not to come to the ETT Office at 4211 Yonge Street.

All ETT Activities, Events, and Meetings Postponed, Cancelled, or to be Held Virtually

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure the health and safety of our members, all ETT activities, events, and meetings have either been postponed, and will be rescheduled; cancelled; or will be held virtually.

Members will be notified by email of the new dates (if applicable), and, if necessary, registration timelines. Please stay tuned to ETT email communications and to the ETT website.

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