In exactly three weeks schools are set to open in Ontario. Though the Ford-led provincial government has promised that children, teachers, and school employees, from janitors to cafeteria workers, will be returning to safe environments, many remain unconvinced and more than a few are worried. This is why the Ontario Parent Action Network (OPAN) set up a mock classroom outside the Ontario Legislature last week to protest the Ford-led government’s back-to-school plan. Most schools are older buildings with bad ventilation and not enough room for physical distancing. There is a real need for more staff — more teachers, more janitors.
OPAN formed to fight Ford’s cuts to public education. They are now involved in the struggle for a safe return to school. Ford and his Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, expect students, teachers, and staff to return in September with strict funding constraints. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) came up with a plan within the provincial government’s narrow constraints, calling for smaller cohorts in elementary classrooms, but this was rejected by Minister Lecce. At a time when U.S. reports a 90% increase since mid-July in children testing positive for the coronavirus, with many teachers in the TDSB updating or drawing up their wills, the Ford government has demonstrated a clear lack of concern.
The Conservatives’ plan does not include reductions in class sizes or plans for dealing with outbreaks of the virus at schools. According to OPAN, the feds gave $5 billion for COVID recovery to the Ontario government that has yet to be spent. That money would be well used to protect the students, teachers, and staff in the public school system as well as support for working parents. Pressure needs to be increased on the government to put lives before profit.
For more information and how to get involved, visit OPAN’s website where you can download an action kit: https://linktr.ee/schoolwalkins. Or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/parentaction4ed. Also see the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO): www.etfo.ca and www.facebook.com/ETFOprovincialoffice and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF): www.osstf.on.ca and www.facebook.com/osstfnews.