Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that teacher’s unions need to be part of the solution for a safe restart as classes start in September.
On Monday, Ford responded to his government’s rejection of the TDSB’s back to school plan.
The plan would have the elementary school day end 48 minutes earlier, which was seen as the most affordable way to decrease class sizes and increase physical distancing — teachers’ prep time was moved earlier into the school day.
They also refused to approve the TDSB’s plans for a “quadmester” high school year, saying it did not give students enough time in class — it would provide 25% of the standard in-class time.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that earlier on Monday, they had productive discussions with the TDSB to maximize the amount of time students can be in the classroom.
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“Everyone in the province is stepping up and sacrificing,” Lecce said. “We know the board is working around the clock to keep those numbers low. We need everyone to be part of the solution and unions will be part of that solution as well.”
Ford also pivoted his answers to the teacher’s unions, who last week sent a letter claiming the province was breaking their own laws for the school plan.
“Throughout the whole pandemic, everyone’s been getting along, why is it that the teacher’s unions, it’s just constant, they constantly want to attack, why don’t you be part of the solution instead of the problem?” Ford said.
The premier added that the province has been “flexible,” and they’re asking for teacher’s unions to do the same.
The Ministry of Education also told Daily Hive in a written statement that “several teacher unions have refused to discuss issues such as prep time, supervision limits, and lunch breaks. This has forced boards to make significant adaptations, which in many cases does not serve to maximize learning experience, health and safety, and well-being of students.”
They said that teacher unions need to play a “role and be reasonable amid a global pandemic.”
A source from the ministry also said that the unions are refusing to engage in any discussion of prep time and that the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO) specifically has refused to discuss the issue with the Ministry of Education.
During a press briefing shortly after Ford’s comments, Mayor John Tory said that Toronto Public Health will provide as much support as possible to the city’s schools.
He said that 70 TPH staff will be available to help specifically with school boards.
Tory also confirmed that a report on city space is being made to see what can be accessible for schools and that parks are available to use during class time.
The TDSB responded by saying, “We know that the timelines are extremely tight, so staff are working to provide as much information as possible on all options for tomorrow’s meeting of Trustees, who will be making decisions on funding from reserves to help facilitate smaller class sizes.”