November 20, 2020
Toronto, ON – Public school students and staff are being put at unnecessary risk because the Ford government and its Minister of Education are refusing to acknowledge the connection between schools being open and COVID-19 cases increasing.
“In bypassing schools with today’s lock-down announcement, Ford and Education Minister Lecce are letting schools remain open, with no data to support their claim that the coronavirus is not being spread by schools,” said Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
“It is my opinion that we do have COVID-19 amplification in schools,” states Dr. David Fisman, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Toronto. "We have seen dramatic increases in per cent positivity of COVID-19 tests in both young children and teens since schools opened.”
“Contract tracing has broken down in parts of the province and there is a significant lack of systematic, school-based surveillance. Approximately 60 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario currently have no known epidemiological link, so there is no certainty that infections in teachers, staff and students are not acquired in schools.”
Large class sizes of up to 32 students in some hotspots have made two-metre physical distancing impossible. That has been compounded by poor ventilation and not having mandatory masking policies for all students in some school boards. The need for universal masking and improved ventilation is increasingly urgent given the onset of winter.
“Instead of investing some of the $9.3 billion in unallocated contingency funds to address these critical issues, the Ford government has sat on this money while students, educators, and their families continue to risk their health,” said President Hammond.
“It makes absolutely no sense to have more provincial restrictions without working to ensure that public schools have every measure possible in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission.”
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, email@example.com @etfomedia