Ontario’s teachers’ unions have responded to a request from the Premier for advice on the safe reopening of schools, saying they’ve been trying to give it all along.
A statement was issued on Friday, co-signed by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), stating the 32 hours Ford gave experts to respond to his questions is an inadequate amount of time. The statement went on to indicate education workers have long been calling on the provincial government to work collaboratively on the safe reopening of schools.
“These measures are necessary to ensure that schools and workplaces are safe for students and staff, and allow for a sustainable return to in-person learning,” reads the statement. “However, the situation is not the same everywhere in the province and the government must defer to the advice of local medical officers of health regarding what is best for their communities.”
Friday’s statement urged Premier Ford to convene an advisory table of education stakeholders to address the health and safety needs of schools and the learning challenges faced by students because of the pandemic. The statement also indicated these unions feel education workers and teachers be prioritized to receive vaccinations.
Earlier this week, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner stated he supports a safe return to school this academic year, despite the little time left.