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Statement from Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario President Sam Hammond

April 08, 2021

Although yesterday’s vaccination announcement was an important step forward for safety in schools across the province, more needs to be done to ensure safety for everyone. And clarity is needed on the province’s vague vaccination plan for education workers.

If everything, as they say, is truly on the table, the Ford government will find a way to ensure all education workers have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, at the same time as other vulnerable populations, so that they can be vaccinated before the end of the break next week, especially in hot spot areas.

In today’s media release, the Ministry of Education introduced no effective measures that will help keep students and staff safe. And we’re left asking, if we’re to believe the Ford government’s repeated reassurances that Ontario’s schools are safe, why would they be implementing additional protections to make them so?

Real protections require investment. We haven’t seen that from the Ford government to date. Expanding their unsuccessful asymptomatic testing program will not help curb COVID-19; it needs to be revisited. A COVID-19 refresher/awareness campaign for staff, students and families isn’t enough to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus. Neither is enhanced cleaning during the break. What happens when students and staff return? Will the cleaning be enhanced then? And although outdoor education sounds lovely, it isn’t possible to have multiple cohorts outdoors at the same time in spaces that don’t allow for adequate physical distancing.

The Ford government’s repeated refusal to fund necessary safety enhancements has resulted in ongoing health and safety risks in schools across the province—risks that have led to ongoing
disruption and unnecessary transitions from in-person to virtual learning.

When medical officers of health are urging the government to implement province-wide stay-at-home orders, schools are not safe. And no smoke-and-mirror percentages shared by the Premier Ford or Minister Lecce will convince us they are. The data tells a different story: COVID-19 cases are surging in Ontario’s schools.

ETFO continues to call on the provincial government to:

  • focus on the hardest-hit regions;
  • prioritize vaccinations for education workers and all other essential workers;
  • implement temporary virtual learning in areas where numbers are increasing at alarming rates;
  • reduce class sizes to ensure two metres of physical distancing;
  • fund N95 masks, instead of medical masks, which do little to prevent aerosol spread;
  • fund improvements to ventilation and air filtration;
  • ensure broad uptake of COVID-19 testing;
  • implement paid sick leave; and
  • provide financial support for families who need it while lockdown measures are in effect.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Ford government has prioritized cost-cutting and the economy over the safety and well-being of students and education workers. This should anger everyone.

For more information, contact Carla Pereira, ETFO Media Relations, 416-576-9074,