Vaccinate teachers or close schools, union tells Ontario government

Apr 5 2021, 6:11 pm

A union representing Ontario elementary school teachers delivered an ultimatum to the provincial government Monday: vaccinate education staff to make the job safer or temporarily close schools while COVID-19 infections soar.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario wants the province to make vaccinating teachers a higher priority while they continue teaching in-class as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic grips much of the country.

“Educators firmly believe that quality in-person learning, when done safely, is what is best for students. Unfortunately, due to the Ford government’s repeated refusal to make necessary investments, this is simply not possible in many areas of the province,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a news release.

He has a number of demands for the province to ensure in-class education can continue more safely:

  • Prioritize vaccination for teachers and other education workers
  • Implement temporary virtual learning in areas where COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly
  • Purchase N95 masks for classrooms instead of medical masks to address the risk of aerosol spread
  • Reduce class sizes to allow for physical distancing
  • Implement paid sick leave

The provincial government announced last week that the April spring break would go ahead as scheduled beginning April 12 and that in-class learning would resume afterwards.

The Ontario School Board Council of Unions, representing about 55,000 education workers, declared a similar position last week, saying teachers should be immunized as a condition of schools remaining open.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has been calling for Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government to implement paid sick leave and vaccinate essential workers for some time now. On Monday, she echoed several of the teaching union’s demands as the province faces rising COVID-19 ICU admissions.

Teachers are set to be vaccinated along with other essential workers in Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccination plan. Phase 2 is scheduled to begin this month and last until June.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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