Teachers and education workers at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are calling for an extended winter break and more asymptomatic testing.
In an open letter sent on Wednesday to Health Minister Christine Elliott, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, and TDSB Chair Alexander Brown, teachers and education workers called on the Ford government to fund asymptomatic testing at all TDSB schools.
And they called for schools to be closed the first two weeks of January.
Already the pilot project with voluntary COVID-19 testing for asymptotic cases has resulted in the closure of two TDSB elementary schools.
“On behalf of all Teachers and Education Workers at the Toronto District School Board, we are calling on the Ontario Ministers of Education and Health, Toronto Public Health and the Toronto District School Board to extend this pilot project to assess the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in schools across the City on a regular and ongoing basis,” the letter reads.
The closure of schools for the first two weeks of January would be to “ensure schools do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the post-holiday period.”
“We want you to ensure that schools cannot contribute to a similar surge-effect on positive cases after the winter holidays. For this reason, we are calling for these actions to protect the health of Teachers, Education Workers, our students, their families, and the community at large, and to provide access to data on asymptomatic case transmission within schools.”
The teachers also called on Premier Doug Ford, saying that he has refused to provide adequate funding to reduce elementary school classes for proper physical distancing. And has refused to provide “timely or adequate funding” for the upgrade of school air exchange systems and has “not provided adequate resources for contact tracing.”
“We are calling on him to take these two actions to ensure a safer start to the New Year,” they said.
The Ministry of Education spokesperson, Caitlin Clark, told Daily Hive in a statement that “Ontario schools remain safe places to learn.”
“With four out of five schools in this province having no active cases of COVID-19 at all and 99.9% of all Ontario students do not have an active case. Our government believes it is so important for our students to continue to go to school.”
Clark noted that while community-based transmission is on the rise, according to “the best medical experts,” it’s not occurring in schools.
“That is precisely why our government introduced tough restrictions, lockdowns, and limits on social bubbles to stem the tide of rising community transmission from the community and to keep our schools open for our students.”
On Wednesday, de Villa said the COVID-19 positivity rate in Toronto is highest among 14 to 17 year-olds.
That same day a Toronto high school, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, closed until January due to a COVID-19 outbreak after a spike in cases had been reported among students.
And Thorncliffe Park Public School was also ordered to close after more than 20 people tested positive.
According to the province, 11 school closures have been reported out of the 866 schools that have cases — there have been 5,919 cases since students went back to school in September.