Hon. Doug Ford, MPP
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Hon. Stephen Lecce, MPP
Minister of Education
315 Front Street, 14th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 0B8
Dear Premier Ford and Minister Lecce,
I am writing to express the Board’s concerns with the current back-to-school recovery plan, and the “hybrid” or “adapted” model that the government is currently asking school boards to prepare to implement when school opens this September. The concerns and recommendations to the government were part of a resolution unanimously approved by the Board.
The Board is urging the government to develop a full and measured emergency response to the Covid-19 recovery/reopening of schools plan that will support communities, families, and children, and prioritizes investment in public education.
As you know, a number of Canadian authorities on children’s health have raised significant concerns about the risks of keeping children in remote-learning scenarios long-term.
The Board is concerned that this “hybrid” or “adapted” model will leave working parents with young children, single-parent households, and low-income families in the precarious position of having to choose between educating their children and their own employment. This model places a tremendous burden on parents and caregivers – and in particular women, families with young children and low-income families – and stands to further jeopardize the economic recovery. The health and safety of students and staff need to be prioritized yet balanced with the needs of families.
The Board is advising the Ontario government to:
- develop of a larger and more robust staffing plan to accommodate getting as many students as possible, as soon as possible, back into physical schools/spaces, while respecting public health advice;
- provide temporary, emergency funding to ensure that part the above can be accomplished safely and effectively and in the best interest of all families and communities; and
- provide, as previously requested in our Board’s letter to the Minister of Education on May 22, 2020, that the necessary funding supports to school boards be in place for all extra Covid-19 costs including PPE, additional staffing, additional transportation, IT devices, mental health and well-being supports, cleaning supplies, repair/maintenance to ventilation systems, touch-free sinks and soap dispensers for handwashing, and water bottle refill stations
The Board will also be writing to the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Toronto to encourage their collaboration with the Ontario government on other funding, policies and programs that will help allow children and families to participate fully in the reopening school. These include new investments that will support a greater number of affordable and accessible childcare spaces and paid parental leave options for parents/guardians whose ability to participate in the workforce is hindered by the lack of complete school/childcare options for their child(ren).
We urge you to act on these recommendations as soon as possible. We would be happy to discuss further at any time.
Robin Pilkey, CPA, CA, ICD.D
Chair, Toronto District School Board