Thunder Bay – As more students return to class today, the Ontario government is providing an additional $381 million, provided through the federal Safe Return to Class Fund, to keep schools safe from COVID-19.
The government says, “Although transmission in schools has been low, this funding will be used improve air quality and ventilation in schools, support online learning, promote student mental health and hire additional staff. With this new funding, schools will have been provided with more than $1.6 billion to better protect students, staff, and families.
“To protect Ontario students and staff, and with the aim of reopening all schools, we have again strengthened our plan with tougher measures and new investments,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We agree with parents and medical experts that kids need to be learning in class – alongside their friends and teachers – as it is crucial for their mental wellbeing and development. We will continue to follow expert medical advice and work to get all schools open, for children in all regions of our province.”
Not Enough Say NDP
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Education critic Marit Stiles said it’s disturbing that the Ford government is still refusing to implement missing measures to make schools safe, despite more infectious variants spreading.
The Ford government’s choices so far led to one in every five children under the age of 13 testing positive for the virus, and schools closing province-wide this winter.
“We all want kids safely back in school as quickly as possible. But especially with the new, more infectious variants in our communities, I’m worried that history will repeat itself, students and staff will get sick, and more school closures will follow,” said Horwath. “We need a provincially-led, broad and comprehensive in-school testing plan. We need classes no bigger than 15 students. We need paid sick days and family leave days so parents can afford to keep kids at home if they’re sick or were potentially exposed.”
Stiles said Ford not only has access to scores of expert advice recommending those things – he also has the money to do it.
“Ontario has received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government, but Ford is choosing not to spend it on those new measures,” said Stiles. “Ford was cutting education and firing thousands of teachers and educators before the pandemic, and he’s resistant to spending in our kids’ schools now.
“Teachers, education workers, students and parents are doing their absolute best to make this incredibly challenging school year work. It’s frustrating and scary for them to watch Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford get in front of cameras again and again, and announce tweaks or half-measures instead of the comprehensive actions we know would protect students and staff.”