For Immediate Release – July 27, 2020
Toronto, ON – Ahead of the release of the Toronto District School Board’s finalized model for reopening schools, Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) President Jennifer Brown has penned an open letter to TDSB Interim Director Carlene Jackson, bringing forward recommendations and questions from frontline elementary teachers and their call for action for a safe September.
“As September approaches, it is essential that the 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,” says ETT President Jennifer Brown.
The Board must take action, says Brown, to secure funding for what is required to keep our students and classrooms safe, including:
- smaller class sizes, with the requisite additional staff, so students and educators can adhere to physical distancing requirements;
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all teachers and education workers;
- regular deep cleaning and sanitizing of all classrooms and shared spaces;
- hand washing facilities and supplies for every classroom; and
- other essential health and safety measures, as per recommendations of public health officials.
“Teacher safety is student safety,” concludes Brown. “Safe working conditions for teachers means safe learning conditions for students, and, beyond that, increased safety for our families and in our communities.”
About the Elementary Teachers of Toronto
ETT is the Toronto local of ETFO. The local—the largest in Canada—acts as the representative body for more than 11,000 elementary teachers (K-8) employed by the TDSB.
For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Brown, President
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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.
Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Stephen Lecce, Ontario Minister of Education
Sam Hammond, ETFO President
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?