There have been some major announcements in the Education sector in the last 48 hours, and today I’ll begin our newsletter breaking down what they mean for students, parents, teachers, and education workers in Ontario.
On Monday evening, news outlets began reporting that students would be returning to classrooms on January 17th, despite the Omicron variants spread in our province. While I’ve been firm in my support for in-person learning during the pandemic, this announcement came with little information about what steps – if any – the Ford government would be taking to ensure that our classrooms were as safe as they could be for this return.
For months, along with my Ontario NDP colleagues, I have been calling for the government to make every effort to ensure that schools are safe for the return to the classroom. We need to take real steps so that this return is permanent, and our students and staff aren’t forced back online in a few more weeks.
To do this, we’ve been calling for:
- A vaccine blitz for students with in-school vaccine clinics with permission from parents, and an outreach campaign including culturally-relevant outreach
- Mandatory vaccination for all teachers and education workers
- Reduced class sizes and school busloads
- Free rapid tests for all students, teachers, and education staff
- Access to PCR tests again
- Reporting of COVID cases in schools
- Improved ventilation in all schools and regular on-site air quality testing
- Free N95 masks for all teachers and education workers
- Support for teachers and staff to help address critical learning gaps caused by previous shutdowns.
Despite our calls to action to take these common-sense steps, the Ford government has continued to largely ignore our suggestions (which are backed by experts), and at today’s press conference we learned that their plan will comprise of the following.
- Telling parents when about 30% of the school community (students and staff) are absent from school that there is likely an outbreak
- Two rapid antigen tests when they return next Monday
- Their previously announced measures.
I think it’s clear that the “plan” from the Ford government falls far short of the mark. As my colleague MPP Marit Stiles, Ontario NDP Education Critic put it:
“It shouldn’t be easier to find out about a lice outbreak than a COVID outbreak.”
I agree completely with MPP Stiles. It’s outrageous that after all this time, the Ford government continues to refuse to take common-sense steps to make sure that schools in our province are as safe as they can be for students and staff.
I’m sure that there will be more to come on this file soon, and I’ll update you as we know more. For now, let me just say that we are not done with this fight – and we’ll be continuing to apply pressure on this issue as we demand better for the Education system in Ontario.
On that note – this Saturday from 1PM to 3PM I will be hosting a Day of Action for Education – where we’ll be phone banking our community to talk about what a better plan for our province’s education system will look like with an NDP government.
If you’d like to join me, you can RSVP here.
Across Ontario, today we reported another 46 COVID-19 related deaths, along with an increase in hospitalizations and admissions to ICUs. We now have 3448 people in hospital with COVID-19, and 505 in intensive care. These are sobering statistics and make it clear that we all need to be taking the necessary precautions right now, including wearing a high-quality well-fitting mask, and getting vaccinated.
If you’re having trouble booking a vaccine appointment, whether it’s for your first dose, second dose or your booster shot, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my team at [email protected], and we’ll do everything we can to help you book your shot.
You can also find your own appointment through the provincial vaccine portal here or find a local pharmacy that booking vaccination appointments here.
We all need to find our escapes from the pandemic when we can, and I’m happy today to share with you a free program that’s being put on by Ballet Jorgen – who are offering a free open program titled Ballet 101. They’ll be teaching basic ballet positions, demonstrating what a ballet class would look like, and they’ll be answering questions as well. While the sessions are open to everyone, they’re focused mostly on children 12 and under.