UPDATE: ETFO says back-to-school plan unsafe, demanding improvements

Lambton Kent Elementary Teachers Federation President Laurel Liddicoat-Newton (Photo via Twitter)

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) does not feel the province’s back-to-school plan is safe and is demanding improvements.

Lambton-Kent ETFO President Laurel Liddicoat-Newton said they have a number of concerns, including funding.

“We are concerned about the government not reducing elementary class sizes to allow for two-metre physical distancing and the fact that they’re not requiring students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 to wear masks,” said Liddicoat-Newton. “We’re looking for a larger investment — $3-billion across the province has not been granted, and that’s what is necessary, $3-billion, and really, $30-million falls short.”

Of the province’s $309 million dollars allocated for pandemic safety protocols, $30 million is earmarked for teacher staffing to support supervision, keeping classes small and other safety-related measures.

Liddicoat-Newton said the province’s addition of public health nurses amounts to one or two for the local school district that has over 50 elementary schools.

When asked about potential job action to back its demands, she said ETFO, the union representing Ontario’s public elementary teachers, is considering its options.

“That’s still to be discussed and decided by our provincial organization at this time. [The news] just came down yesterday, and I know I’ve had so many emails and phone calls, and ETFO is working on this right now, so we’re not sure yet.”

Liddicoat-Newton later clarified that her response should not have insinuated “job action” in the form of a walkout or strike. She said they’re not in a legal position to strike and most definitely will not wildcat at this time. She noted that locally they continue to bargain with the Lambton Kent District School Board for their local agreement and central terms with the province have already concluded after strike actions last spring.

Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that elementary and secondary students in Lambton-Kent will return to the classroom full-time September 8 with various safety protocols being implemented.

The public and Catholic school boards in Lambton-Kent are gathering feedback from parents on the reopening of schools in September.

-With files from Colin Gowdy