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Letter to school board chairs re safe reopening

On July 29, 2020 ETFO President Sam Hammond wrote to the Chairs of Ontario Public School Boards asking every board to prioritize the health and safety of students and educators as they finalize their plans for reopening  schools in September.​ Find a copy of the letter here.

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

Fédération des enseignantes et des enseignants de l'élémentaire de l'Ontario (FEEO)

136 Isabella St
Toronto, ON M4Y 0B5

Telephone: 416-962-3836 Tollfree: 1-888-838-3836

Fax: 416-642-2424

July 29, 2020

TO: Chairs of Ontario Public School Boards 

RE: Safe Reopening of Schools 

On behalf of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and our 83,000 members, I want to thank you for all your work during this unprecedented public health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has created incredible challenges, many of which we have been able to confront together. 

The health and safety of students, educators, school staff and their families must be the overriding principle that underpins our collective efforts as we prepare to reopen public schools this September. ETFO has been working over the past few months to help ensure that school boards across the province have the necessary funding and resources to ensure a safe reopening of schools. 

Despite the best efforts of many stakeholders, including ETFO and other education unions, school boards, public health units and parent organizations, the provincial government has not committed to providing the funding required to ensure a safe return. It is critical that the government allocate this funding to ensure the health and safety of students, educators and other school staff; and to provide sufficient support for students when they need it most. 

Ontario cannot afford to get this wrong. If we do not make the necessary investments now to ensure that schools reopen safely, we will all pay the price later. 

The lack of a clear and fully-funded plan that guarantees the health and safety of students and educators has left many school boards with impossible choices to make. We ask that as you finalize your plans to reopen schools in September you ensure that they include the following: 

  • Smaller student cohorts that ensure physical distancing for students and educators, based on the recommended minimum distance of two metres;
  • Mandatory masks for educators and students with exemptions for those that require special accommodations;
  • Improved health and safety protocols that ensure enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of school facilities;
  • Providing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Additional mental health supports for students and educators;
  • Resources to address equity gaps which have been worsened by the pandemic; and
  • Adequate supports for students with unique learning needs.
A recent survey conducted by ETFO among more than 72,000 parents and school staff indicated that 69 per cent of respondents are concerned about the ability to maintain physical distancing in schools, while 77 per cent believe that the government needs to increase funding to support a safe reopening of schools. 

Several months ago, Premier Ford told the people of Ontario that his government will “spare no expense” to keep people safe. Yet, we know that the funding the government has allocated so far will not be enough to reopen schools safely. We will continue to press the government to ensure they fulfill this promise to Ontarians; we ask that you do the same and join our call for additional funding. 

In a few weeks, students and educators will be returning to public schools across the province. We must all do everything we can to ensure that they do so in conditions that ensure their health and safety. I hope that we can count on you to speak up for our school communities and to work with educators, students and their families. 

I look forward to hearing from you.


[original signed]

Sam Hammond,

Copy: Directors of Education