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Plans to reopen schools during province-wide lockdown fail to protect elementary students and educators

December 21, 2020

Toronto, ON – Today’s province-wide lockdown and school reopening announcement makes it clear that elementary students, educators and their families continue to be overlooked and put at unnecessary risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The plan to reopen elementary schools in the midst of a province-wide lockdown doesn’t make sense. These new provincial restrictions will not be effective unless every possible action is taken to prevent COVID-19 transmission in elementary schools when they reopen. It’s time to do what is urgently needed, not what is politically convenient,” said Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

“By downplaying the transmission of COVID-19 in elementary schools and refusing to provide the necessary funding, despite having billions of dollars in unallocated contingency funds, the Ford government has proven that they aren’t interested in ensuring all schools are safe. Reopening schools with an underfunded and inequitable virtual learning strategy is not a solution.” 

Other provinces announced their post-Winter Break plans weeks ago. Noted Hammond, “By announcing Ontario’s plans over the holidays, Lecce is once again showing his disrespect for educators. Had this government made its decision earlier, boards, educators, families and students could have been better prepared for the transition back to virtual learning.”

ETFO continues to call on the provincial government to reduce class sizes to ensure two metres of physical distancing; establish mandatory caps on class size; fund improvements to ventilation and air filtration; make masks mandatory for all students; fund supports for students engaged in virtual learning (including access to devices and the internet); increase special education supports; expand school-based COVID-19 testing to all regions experiencing significant community transmission; and provide financial support for families who need it while lockdown measures are in effect.

“While elementary educators have shown incredible resilience and commitment during these difficult times, they have been abandoned by this government time and again, and have been asked to contend with additional stressors,” added Hammond. 

“The government has failed to keep the pandemic under control and now has once again failed to provide a viable plan and the resources needed to keep students and educators safe. Teaching during a pandemic is incredibly challenging and educators’ commitment has been unwavering. This government must come through not only with a better plan, but with the necessary supports and funding for educators, students and their families.”

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:
Carla Pereira, ETFO Media Relations, 416-576-9074, cpereira@etfo.org