“Whether the government delays school reopening by two days or two weeks, today’s announcement will not meaningfully impact school health and safety unless the Ford government stops ignoring, and finally acts upon, the critical measures Catholic teachers, and education and public health experts, have been demanding for almost two years.
Throughout the pandemic, the Ford government has opted for a wait-and-see approach to COVID-19, and then scrambled to make last-minute decisions that offer little more than half-measures. Today’s decision, coming just four days after their last ‘plan’ was announced, was entirely avoidable. This is yet again another reactionary measure in a long list that stems from this government’s abdication of leadership, which has repeatedly failed students, parents, teachers, education workers, and all Ontarians.
Ontario cannot afford repeated school closures and learning disruptions. The Ford government must take advantage of the additional time they have given themselves, and act to provide the investment necessary for a safe learning environment, so that students can enjoy the benefits of in-person learning without further chaos and confusion.
For a safe and sustainable learning and working environment in Ontario schools, Catholic teachers call on the Ford government to prioritize access to booster shots for all teachers and education workers, make additional rapid antigen tests available to everyone in schools, reinstitute case count reporting and implement a comprehensive COVID-19 testing and tracing program, and immediately provide all teachers and education workers with N95 masks, as well as the best possible masks to all students, with improved guidelines to ensure masking compliance.
To provide the greatest level of protection to our students and communities, Catholic teachers urge the government to reduce class sizes to promote physical distancing. We also believe that everyone working in, or attending school who is eligible to be vaccinated, should be vaccinated. COVID-19 must be added to the list of designated diseases in Ontario Regulation 261/13 Designated Diseases under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and coupled with a robust public campaign promoting the importance of student vaccination.
The government must also improve ventilation and install HEPA filters in all classrooms and public areas in schools, with publicly available air quality metrics and standards, in recognition and acceptance of the fact that the virus is airborne.
It has been painful to watch our students suffer through repeated in-class learning disruptions, negatively impacting their mental health and academic well-being. The Ford government must act now and invest the resources necessary for safe and sustainable in-class learning.”
- Barb Dobrowolski, President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association