Last week education minister Stephen Lecce finally announced his September 2020 back to school plan. Promising to provide clarity to parents, students, and educators about the return to school during the ongoing pandemic, Lecce’s plan is a promise-unfulfilled.
The plan lacks detail and compromises student safety for political expediency. The lack of detail for transporting kids to school is concerning. A local school trustee mused on social media that 25 per cent of all drivers will likely opt out of driving due to concerns about COVID-19. This will compound an existing driver shortage. Minimal investments are being made to ensure students safety once they get to class.
Lecce’s plan may have consulted medical professionals, but it left out an important group involved with education – teachers. Teachers were not consulted regarding this plan when they know best what is feasible for children in classrooms. Students between Grades 4 and 12 will have to wear a mask indoors but the province is cutting the minimum distancing recommendation in half within schools abandoning the now-normal medical convention of two metres of physical distancing.
A recent community use planning meeting between the two English-language school boards and municipal officials was a lost opportunity whereby the entities could have worked together to help create ample space for student learning. Relocating classrooms out of crowded schools and into municipal halls/spaces seems like a logical way to temporarily grow space between students.
Locally, Morrisburg Public and Seaway District High School are identified as having lower enrollment and excess capacity, giving them the benefit of room for students spacing. Iroquois Public and St. Mary-St. Cecilia Catholic School are already over capacity leaving these two schools ill-equipped to handle any distancing measures. Lecce’s plan seems more intent on handling outbreaks when they happen, rather than ensuring schools have what they need to avoid outbreaks.
While we agree that students need to go to school – this government has left its homework to the last minute and obviously rushed to get its planning assignment completed on time. The provincial government has done a good job trying to address issues with Long-Term Care homes and hospitals brought to light during this pandemic. Ontario is not doing the same for its children by opting for a short-sighted, shallow education plan for this fall.