Gretzky urging government to finalize back-to-school plan

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky speaks at a rally supporting striking public health nurses in Windsor, March 15, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

A local member of the Ontario Legislature wants the Ford government to lay out a safe plan to get all students back to class in September.

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky was joined by union officials at a media event in Windsor Wednesday afternoon, providing a list of supports needed by area students and teachers to get all students back to school, five days a week.

Gretzky has accused Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce of sitting on a plan to get students back to school full time and do it safely.

Lecce is expected to announce the province’s plan Thursday.

“When in-school education was paused in the spring due to the pandemic, educators, students and parents were forced to adapt to remote learning, and it was an incredibly difficult and stressful time,” said Gretzky in a media release. “Yet with only five weeks until the start of the school year, Doug Ford and his government have failed to provide the plan and funding needed to ensure kids can return to schools and in a safe and supportive way.”

Ford and Lecce had both expressed a desire to get all students back in school five days a week if it was safe to do so. Earlier this month, the NDP had set out a plan, which included the following.

  • Hiring enough teachers and education workers to cover all students for five full days of instruction, with smaller class sizes
  • Putting alternative classrooms in place
  • Funding to support the child care industry to guard against fee increases and layoffs
  • Paid sick and paternal leave in any modified return
  • Funding to hire teachers, and support bussing, school repairs and cleaning
  • Addressing the needs of black, Indigenous, and other minority students who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Gretzky said with the summer in full swing, parents, students, and teachers need answers now.

“Parents, students, and educators deserve to know if the province will provide emergency funding right now to school boards right now, to put that in place so they can be ready for September. Enough is enough, the community here in Windsor cannot afford to wait any longer after weeks of uncertainty and delays,” said Gretzky.

All public school boards have been asked to submit their back-to-school plans for three different scenarios to the Ministry of Education by Tuesday, August 4. They are a full-time return, a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, and full remote instruction.