ETFO suggests schools should stay closed

An empty classroom. (Photo by Wokandapix from Pixabay)

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is asking medical officials to keep the students home for at least the remainder of the provincial lockdown.

ETFO President Sam Hammond acknowledged that while in-class learning is the most effective method of learning, it’s also a dangerous one right now due to the rising numbers of COVID-19.

“It makes no sense for the government to send students, teachers and education workers back to school while the province is locked for another two to three weeks,” said Hammond. “Despite repeated calls for adequate safety measures, the government has refused to implement them in a misguided effort to save money, jeopardizing the health and safety of students, educators and their families.”

Hammond is calling on the public health units to use their authority to reconsider the decision to have students return to in-person learning and to implement asymptomatic surveillance testing in schools.

Both secondary and elementary school students resumed classes virtually this week following the winter break. Students in Kindergarten up to Grade 8 are scheduled to return to in-person learning on January 11, while high school students are expected to go back two weeks later on January 25.

“This is not the right time to restart in-person learning,” added Dr. David Fisman, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Toronto. “We have to assume that there is a lot of asymptomatic COVID-19 in schools. It is irresponsible to send children and educators back to schools without knowing for sure that it is safe to do so.”

The ETFO is also pushing the province to provide supports for families during periods when schools are closed to in-person attendance. The organization stated that a safe return cannot be ensured unless a plan that reduces class sizes and improves ventilation is put in place.