Ontario teacher’s unions want March break as province still decides

Feb 4 2021, 9:34 am

Ontario teacher’s unions want March break to still occur, as the province is in the midst of deciding officially what to do.

On Thursday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement provided by his office, “we’ve sought the medical advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. My hope is by next week to have that final expert opinion. My decision is going to be based exclusively on public health imperatives.”

But unions like the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) are all in favour of keeping the break in place.

“In brief, I can’t imagine that it couldn’t go ahead,” OSSTF President Harvey Bischoff told Daily Hive. “If the problem is to reduce travel, then address reducing travel.”

Bischoff added that in the meantime, the government can address the medical issues they have yet to implement, such as limiting classroom size to 15 students, improved ventilation and HVAC systems, and limiting school bus occupancy as “right now you can have as many as 72 students on a bus.”

“There’s also been a call for a robust asymptomatic testing regime, and it has still not happened under the Ministry of Education. We need to focus on the foundations first instead of ad hoc knee jerk reactions,” Bischoff said. 

He also emphasized the need for staff, students, and families to rest, “everyone is exhausted.”

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) agreed that “students, families, and educators need a break right now, so any decision should take their well-being into consideration.”

“As well, if there are concerns related to travel during March break, this is something that should be addressed by the provincial government,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement to Daily Hive.

On Wednesday, Lecce announced that Ontario schools are set to open across the province on Monday, February 8, with schools in Toronto, Peel and York opening the following week on February 16, after Family Day.

Lecce said there would be enhanced supports, but classroom sizes remain the same.

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