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Given Sick Kids report, government must exercise caution on school reopening

July 29, 2020

Toronto, ON – Despite today’s report from Sick Kids Hospital on reopening schools, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) says the government must exercise caution when it comes to elementary students.

“While the Sick Kids report is recommending mandatory masks for older students, we are calling on the government to make masks a requirement for all students, particularly where effective physical distancing will be challenging,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “If a region has declared masks mandatory for indoor spaces, then we expect masks to be mandatory in elementary schools in that region regardless of age.”

“There was significant disagreement among the authors of the report regarding mandatory masks for elementary school students. The risks are too high. We need to keep students and educators safe and we certainly don’t want schools contributing to a second wave of the pandemic.”

Today’s report from Sick Kids Hospital recommends prioritizing smaller class sizes to aid in physical distancing and reduce potential spread of COVID-19 and references several jurisdictions that have successfully reopened schools with smaller classes. While the current physical distancing recommendation in Canada is two metres (six feet), the report also says that a one metre (three feet) distance may “approach” the benefits of a two metre distancing for young students.  

“The government must be unequivocal in its plans to safeguard the safety and health of elementary students and educators. One-metre physical distancing is extremely concerning. Smaller classes that allow for two-metre physical distancing must be part of school reopening plans,” added Hammond.

“With only a few weeks to go before school starts, students, educators and the public at large are anxious to see a real plan with the necessary investments to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our schools.”

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

For more information, contact:
Valerie Dugale, ETFO Media Relations, CELL: 416-948-0195, vdugale@etfo.org  @etfomedia