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.