The NDP is looking for all-party support to cap classroom sizes as Ontario schools report more COVID-19 cases since reopening.
Official Opposition leader, Andrea Horwath, asked all MPPs Wednesday morning to support “urgent changes” to make schools safer, which included capping the classroom size to 15 students.
“The goal is to keep schools open – and that means we need to make schools safer,” said Horwath in a statement. “The more contagious variants are here, and school-based COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. We need urgent action and investment — because children, teachers and education workers’ safety is important, and because no one in this province can afford for us to let a third wave get started.”
On Wednesday, Ontario schools reported 112 new COVID-19 cases over a 24 hour period from February 22 to February 23. This means 623 cases have been reported over the last two weeks.
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And now, 16 schools have officially closed in under a month.
So far in the province, Toronto is reporting some of the most COVID-19 cases in schools with 91, while Ottawa has 57 schools, Hamilton has 31 schools, and Mississauga has 25 schools.
On February 16, schools reopened for in-person learning in Toronto, Peel, and York regions— the final regions in the province to reopen.
“School communities are doing an incredible job, but they need more help to avoid more kids getting sick, and more school closures,” said NDP Education critic Marit Stiles in a statement.
“Our changes would cap class sizes at 15, institute a comprehensive in-school COVID-19 testing program, and improve air quality in schools.”
The Ford government has blocked this NDP motion once before.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that enhanced safety supports would be provided to the schools, such as mandating Grades 1 to 3 to wear masks, targeted asymptomatic testing, stricter screening protocols, and hiring more teachers.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario said they have been advocating to have smaller classroom sizes for almost a year, adding, “It’s extremely difficult to ensure appropriate distancing in classrooms because of the class sizes.”
Since schools reopened in September 2020, there have been a total of 8,282 cases out of over 2 million students in public education.