Education unions call on school board to reconsider restart plan

Aug 6 2020, 9:55 am

Education unions in Toronto are calling on the school board to reconsider and re-evaluate the school restart plan for September, citing concerns for teacher and student safety.

In an open letter to Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustees and Director, a number of education union groups shared their lack of confidence in the restart plan, and in Premier Doug Ford’s response.

“Over the course of the school closure period this government has steadfastly claimed to rely on the medical expertise – that which it chooses to listen to, but never to identify – but has equally as steadfastly ignored the other experts in the room when it comes to school reopening – education workers and parents,” reads the letter.

The unions say Premier Ford is attempting to “abdicate responsibility” for the plan, which they say has ignored “basic recommendations” made by SickKids in their most recent school reopening report.

On Wednesday, Ford also defended the decision not to reduce class sizes for elementary students.

In the letter, teachers and educators are urging the board to introduce a number of added safety measures to protect students and staff, and ensure a safe reopening of schools in September.

Among the recommendations, teachers are asking the board for the following:

  • reduced class size for all grades to cohorts of 15
  • mandatory masks for all staff and students
  • safe professional working spaces for all teachers and education workers
  • teaching/learning schedules that prioritize face-to-face learning with asynchronous and synchronous learning as supplementary modes, as needed
  • proper PPE for all
  • funding that ensures the appropriate staffing, and additional health and safety modifications that are required to keep students and staff safe at work, are available

The unions say that parents, students, teachers, and education workers all must have faith in the plan, or the mental health and well being of students will suffer.

“Do not abdicate your responsibility like Doug Ford has, blaming shortfalls in your own plan on the Ministry of Education,” reads the letter.

“If ever there was a time to stand up to this government that puts its own bottom line ahead of everything else, it is now, when the very health and safety of the students and staff in your charge are at risk.”

The letter is signed by representatives from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation Toronto, Elementary Teachers of Toronto, Toronto Education Workers,  OSSTF Toronto Professional Student Support Personnel, and the OSSTF Toronto Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit.

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