Ontario’s teacher unions support mandatory vaccinations in schools

TORONTO, ON—Today, the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) issued the following statement in support of mandatory vaccinations in schools:

“Ontario’s education unions representing teachers, education support workers, and other school staff support mandatory vaccinations in schools. To provide the greatest level of protection to Ontario’s students and communities, we believe that everyone working in, or attending a school who is eligible and can be safely vaccinated, should be vaccinated. 

Any mandatory vaccination program must include provisions that ensure that those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons receive all the required employment accommodations and are not disadvantaged in any way. Individuals who are exempted for reasons due to statements of conscience, or are not vaccinated, must be required to take additional precautions for their own safety and that of those around them including regular testing, using additional PPE, ensuring distancing requirements are met, and adhering to other enhanced safety protocols.

Today’s release of the vaccine disclosure policy falls well short of what’s needed. Too few details have been provided with schools only weeks away from reopening. This government must work with the province’s medical and public health experts to provide clear and consistent direction to school boards and the public. A mandatory vaccination program with proper provincial direction would provide greater protection against the spread of COVID-19 in school communities and protect students, especially those under the age of 12, as well as others who are unable to vaccinate or do not have access. As the fourth wave of the pandemic intensifies, the Ford government cannot continue to abdicate its responsibilities by downloading COVID-19 planning onto school boards at the last minute.

And while vaccinations are important for a safe and sustainable return to in-person learning, they must be accompanied by other measures called for by education and public health experts, including improved ventilation, a robust testing and tracing system, smaller class sizes, masking for all staff and students, and a government-convened consultative and advisory table of education and public health experts.

The government must also make the necessary investments to increase vaccine education, awareness, and accessibility. Such a strategy must recognize that the pandemic has disproportionately affected members of equity-seeking and sovereignty-seeking communities. 

We will continue to advocate on behalf of teachers and education workers and the students they serve to ensure a safe and sustainable return this September, so that students can enjoy the benefits of in-person learning without the repeated disruptions of the previous school year.”

Barb Dobrowolski, President, OECTA
Sam Hammond, President, ETFO
Karen Littlewood, President, OSSTF/FEESO
Anne Vinet-Roy, présidente/President, AEFO

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ETFO holds virtual Annual Meeting August 17 to 19

TORONTO, ON—More than 650 public elementary teachers and education professionals will attend the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) between August 17 and 19, 2021. Members will set policies and directions for the coming year at this democratic forum, which will be held virtually this year.

Members of ETFO’s provincial Executive for 2021-2023 will be elected on August 18. Remarks by ETFO’s new, incoming president will be made on August 19.

Regular updates will be posted to etfo.ca, on Twitter via @ETFOeducators, and on Facebook at ETFO Provincial Office. Media are invited to follow the conversation at #ETFOAM2021.

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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Ontario’s teacher unions respond to Ford government’s inadequate back-to-school plan

TORONTO, ON—Today, the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) issued the following statement in response to the Ford government’s release of its back-to-school plan:

“The Ford government has not learned any lessons from its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. For months, teachers and education workers have been saying that in-person learning is the best and most equitable way for students to learn. Although the Ford government is saying the same thing, its actions do not back up their words. Our members look forward to welcoming students back into school buildings, but expect the government to ensure that it is done safely.

For example, the government’s ventilation announcement is too little and too late. Why wasn’t this investment made 18 months ago? It’s clear that they do not know what schools need, how schools operate nor how to keep students and education workers safe. They’ve ignored our calls for an advisory table and dismissed front-line education workers, but our offer to be consulted stands.

By releasing an incomplete and inadequate plan, instead of assuring families, staff and students that schools will be safe, the Ford government has attempted to create the illusion of normalcy. We are still in a pandemic, with the potential of a fourth wave driven by the Delta variant.

Entire sections of the guidance document are missing at a time when some students are already back in class and others will be returning within four to five weeks, including a plan to manage COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, learning recovery and renewal supports and resources, and a comprehensive plan to support student mental health and well-being.

The plan, which is similar to last year’s reopening plan and loosens some protective measures, ignores the need for ongoing funding to ensure a safe and sustainable return to school. The government continues to download its responsibility to school boards and local public health agencies without providing adequate direction, time or funding.”

Barb Dobrowolski, President, OECTA
Sam Hammond, President, ETFO
Karen Littlewood, President, OSSTF/FEESO
Anne Vinet-Roy, présidente/President, AEFO

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ETFO urges the government to implement a cautious back-to-school strategy

TORONTO, ON – With the release of a report from Sick Kids and the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, ETFO urges the government to take a cautious approach to the reopening of schools and implement necessary safety measures to prevent possible outbreaks in the fall. With the Delta variant becoming the dominant variant in Ontario, and students under 12 not able to be vaccinated, measures need to be taken to avoid schools becoming sources of transmission in the coming months.

“This Sick Kids report was released on the same day as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that everyone wear masks in schools,” said Hammond. “Schools have been shown to be sources of transmission, and ETFO is very concerned that pediatricians and other experts are not advocating for student masking at all levels, when evidence shows that relaxing masking rules has resulted in school outbreaks in other jurisdictions.”

Overall, focus on testing and tracing was a strategy that ETFO suggested in the spring of 2020, but it is unclear whether the report’s criteria for determining low risk will ensure that safety protocols are relaxed slowly enough to ensure that there is not a return to constantly pivoting to online learning due to self-isolation requirements and lockdowns.

“It is late July, and we still don’t have a return-to-school plan from this government. There is no time to lose. It’s time for the Ford government to do what is needed to ensure every school has the resources and the support to implement the necessary precautions against the transmission of COVID-19,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Children and families need the government to prioritize the safety needs of students so that every school is a safe school.”

“While this report focuses on making ongoing safety evaluations based on continuous testing and contact tracing, it also states that safety measures such as smaller cohorts are best achieved where class sizes are smaller. Overall risks would be reduced across the public school system if the government would implement key measures that include access to paid sick days, improving ventilation and reducing class sizes,” said Hammond.

“With the more transmissible Delta variant set to become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Ontario, and children under 12 unable to access vaccinations, the province must implement the necessary precautions to protect students.”

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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Call for Audit Committee

The Local is looking for two members to join the 2021 Audit Committee. Committee members meet for 2-3 hours in July to review and audit the 2020-2021 fiscal records. For their time, committee members will receive a half-day of release pay in September.

To apply, please email Ryan Geick () and briefly outline your suitability for this position. The application window is now closed.

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Ford government’s survival more important than Ontarians’ Charter rights

TORONTO, ON—The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) respond to reports that the Ford government plans to invoke the notwithstanding clause and annul Justice Edward M. Morgan’s recent decision, striking down restrictions on third-party advertising during elections:

“The Ford government’s decision to inappropriately use the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter to silence Ontarians’ voices and legitimate criticism is outrageous. Their willingness to trample on Ontarians’ Charter rights to ensure their own survival is an attack on democracy that should concern everyone.

The courts have clearly said that sections of Bill 254 violate freedom of expression and association, guaranteed by the Charter. Justice Morgan’s decision validates our positions and sends a strong message to the Ford government that laws that silence dissenting voices and give undue advantage to the government have no place in a democracy.

By invoking this rarely used clause to bolster their position, it is clear the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario are gravely concerned that their critics’ voices will be heard, and that voters will be reminded of their repeated failures leading up to the June 2022 election.

They are right to be concerned about their political futures. We will not be muted.

We will continue to hold this and future governments to account as we advocate for a publicly funded education system that is student-centred, equitable and adequately funded.”

Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Sam Hammond, President, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario
Liz Stuart, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association

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You’re Invited!

THANK YOU to our friends and colleagues in the Algoma ETFO Sault Unit for inviting our occasional teachers to partake in their annual ice cream social. You’re the best!

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Premier Ford continues to fail Ontario’s students, families

TORONTO, ON – After spending more than a year refusing to adequately invest in the protections and safety measures needed to keep public schools open safely, the Ford government has announced continued closures, despite consensus from healthcare stakeholders that students return to in-person learning.

“For over a year, the Ford government has consistently failed to manage the pandemic by ignoring input from stakeholders, including recommendations from their own science table. This advice included repeated calls for smaller class sizes, improved ventilation, and adequate personal protective equipment for educators,” says Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond. “They also, negligently, refused to acknowledge schools as primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission. Under false pretenses, Minister Lecce spent nine months insisting schools were safe, without any evidence to confirm this. This government’s utter disregard for the safety of students, educators and other education workers cannot be ignored.”

It’s clear that Ontario’s lengthy closures could have been prevented with proper investment in public education. “The Ford government consistently made students and families an afterthought. They must stop undermining public education and make it a priority. Moving forward, every minute must be spent preparing for a safe and healthy return to in-person learning in the fall, and consultations with stakeholders on updated protocols should begin immediately.

“This past year has been incredibly challenging, but it was made even more difficult by Ford’s refusal to listen. Once again, we urge the Ford government to immediately convene an advisory table of all education stakeholders to address the health and safety needs of schools, and the learning and mental health challenges faced by students as a result of the pandemic,” adds Hammond.

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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Intent to Remain Forms

FINAL REMINDER — Intent to Remain Forms must be completed and submitted via the Employee Portal no later than May 31.

The Board will remove anyone who has not completed this annual requirement from the Occasional Teacher Roster.

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