“Premier Doug Ford’s decision to keep schools closed to in-person learning for the rest of the school year is a direct result of this government’s continued failure to address COVID-19 in our schools and communities.
This situation was entirely avoidable.
Since last spring, Catholic teachers have said that we want schools open for in-person learning, with all appropriate safety measures taken, so that teachers and education workers can provide the individual attention and holistic social, emotional, and academic supports necessary to best realize student success and well-being. But we needed the Ford government to work collaboratively to implement the health and safety measures called for by public health and education experts.
Premier Ford and Education Minister Lecce have had more than 15 months to do what is needed. They could have implemented health and safety protocols, such as smaller class sizes to ensure physical distancing and improved ventilation, to make schools as safe as possible – they did not. They could have instituted a robust testing and tracing system to understand how the virus was spreading throughout schools and communities – they did not. They could have prioritized the vaccination of teachers and education workers – they did not. They could have reopened schools on a regional basis where it made sense to do so – they did not.
Instead, Premier Ford and Minister Lecce chose to cut funding, supress evidence, and feed Ontarians an endless stream of misinformation in an effort to distract and deceive. And when called out for playing political games, the government pointed fingers, attempting to blame anyone and anything other than themselves.
From the outset, Premier Ford’s response to this pandemic has been driven more by concerns about his own personal popularity than sound policy. And we all have been left to suffer the consequences. One year out from the next provincial election, Ontarians will certainly not forget that in our province’s time of need the Ford government chose to abdicate any sense of responsibility and leadership.”
Liz Stuart, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association