The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is calling on the Ford Government to prioritize vaccinating education workers if it plans to continue in-person learning.
On Thursday, the provincial government announced a 28-day shutdown of the entire province but stipulated that schools would remain open. The EFTO says the decision to continue in-person learning despite increased COVID-19 cases in hot spot areas defies logic. “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,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “The government, school boards and PHUs must take immediate action to ensure students and staff are safe, up to and including moving learning online, if that’s what’s deemed necessary.”
Hammond went on to state medical experts have repeatedly said schools can be drivers of community transmission. “By downplaying the transmission of COVID-19 in schools and refusing to provide necessary funding, despite having billions of dollars in unallocated contingency funds, the Ford government continues to prove that they are incapable of managing the pandemic and keeping us all safe,” adds Hammond.
In a statement issued Monday, the ETFO called on the province to address the following:
- focus on the hardest-hit regions;
- prioritize vaccinations for education workers and all other essential workers;
- implement temporary virtual learning in areas where numbers are increasing at alarming rates;
- reduce class sizes to ensure two metres of physical distancing;
- fund N95 masks, instead of medical masks, which do little to prevent aerosol spread;
- fund improvements to ventilation and air filtration;
- ensure broad uptake of COVID-19 testing;
- implement paid sick leave; and
- provide financial support for families who need it while lockdown measures are in effect.
ETFO members are expected to meet Tuesday to further discuss additional steps.
Monday’s statement from the ETFO came following word that all schools in Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon would transition to remote learning for two weeks, in order to curb COVID spread in the community.