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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ETFO responds to Ford government’s sick leave announcement

The Conservatives’ failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic was underscored by today’s temporary paid sick leave announcement. After months spent shirking responsibility, today, the Ford government delivered a hastily developed plan that delivers another half-measure.

Three days of paid sick time, administered through the already overburdened Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, is nowhere near what is needed to save lives. It continues to leave occasional educators and other education workers, who have worked without paid sick leave through the pandemic, unprotected.

This is the same government that moved quickly to eliminate paid sick days from all Ontario workers soon after taking office. The plan they announced today does not undo the harm they did by taking these away in October 2018.

Educators, front-line workers, advocates and the province’s own advisory table have been asking for a robust paid sick leave program for over a year. Repeatedly, the Ford government dismissed these calls, deferring responsibility to the federal government, and shamefully voting against paid sick leave 21 times.

Educators have seen how the pandemic has affected students, particularly those with family members they live with who work front-line jobs. They have watched families struggle because of the lack of legislated, employer-paid sick days.

Like their inadequate vaccine rollout, they rushed to deliver a half-baked plan that underserves Ontarians. Countless lives could have been saved if the Ford government had truly done everything they could to implement a comprehensive paid sick leave plan.

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ETFO statement on increasing anti-Asian violence, Atlanta shootings

Our thoughts are with all those impacted by yesterday’s shootings in Atlanta. We acknowledge the sadness and trauma this has caused members of the Asian community, both locally and internationally, and stand in solidarity with all Asian Canadians during this tragic time. 

Most of the victims were Asian women–their identities underscore the alarming increase of anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fatal impact of misogyny. Yesterday’s events epitomize the worst form of anti-Asian violence, and are symptomatic of both historical and contemporary forms of anti-Asian racism. 

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is deeply concerned about the increasing levels of hate and violence perpetrated against women, Asian communities, and people of Asian descent. This has affected the health, well-being and safety of the educators, students, families and communities we serve. We call on ETFO members and the public to denounce anti-Asian racism and misogyny in all its forms, and to take action within schools and communities.

The resurfacing of anti-Asian discrimination has deep historical, systemic and colonial roots in this country. We must continue to raise awareness, and confront and push for action to eliminate anti-Asian racism and violence. 

Last month, ETFO and the Toronto District School Board launched Addressing Anti-Asian Racism: A Resource for Educators, which provides a foundation for reflection, discussion and social justice action. This resource centres Indigeneity and Black lives as a necessity to addressing anti-Asian racism and the fight against white supremacy and colonialism. ETFO encourages everyone to review the resource for strategies and tools that move us to more inclusive, anti-oppressive spaces.  

If you experience or witness racism during the pandemic, report it at Fight COVID Racism 698. This platform tracks anti-Asian racism and xenophobia in Canada with the aim of validating experiences and using the data to inform efforts to dismantle anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. You can also find resources and supports on etfo.ca.

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ETFO Standing Committees

Consider getting involved with the provincial union by applying to an ETFO Standing Committee.

Serving on a committee will provide you with the opportunity to share your expertise and to have a voice on Federation issues related to provincial policies, positions, programs, and initiatives.

Read this flyer and apply before March 1 at etfo.ca.

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ETFO Celebrates 10 Years of Full-Day Kindergarten in Ontario

ETFO has released a new video to celebrate 10 years of Full-Day Kindergarten in Ontario. This is an important milestone for our members and this video recognizes and celebrates this important event.

Ontario’s Kindergarten program was designed by education experts, and it has proven to be a successful learning program, a model for other jurisdictions to follow, and a fundamental piece of our world-class education system.

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