Ontario teachers’ union give Doug Ford a fail on reopening of schools

Published On May 18, 2021 | By Alleiya Tinglin- Dystant | COVID-19, News
This is the front of a teacher union budling where teachers are standing outside having conversations.
The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, based in Toronto, denied Premier Doug Ford’s claim they wanted schools to remain closed during COVID-19. The photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo credit: courtesy etfo.ca

The elementary teachers’ union is criticizing Ontario Premier Doug Ford after he made comments that teachers were the reason schools were closed to in-person learning.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario rejected Ford’s comments as he announced on May 14 a two-week extension of the stay-at-home order. It is now set to expire on June 2 and questions were asked regarding the reopening of schools.

At the announcement, Ford said the school situation has remained a critical concern for parents and put the blame on teachers.

“We have some doctors that are saying yes, but then we have the teachers’ union that wants to potentially put an injunction against opening the schools. I just need the labour leaders to sit down with the doctors and come up with a solution,” Ford said.

The ETFO president Sam Hammond, along with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, took to social media and said Ford’s claim about an injunction was untrue.

“Premier Ford is trying to blame unions for the failed school plan that his government is responsible for,” he said. “This is just another attempt by Ford government to deflect responsibility for their poor decision-making, mishandling of the pandemic, and botched vaccine distribution plan.”

An ETFO spokesperson added the union is unaware of any applications for injunction by a teacher union to prevent the re-opening of schools.

The ETFO has urged the government to focus on regions hardest hit by the pandemic and continue to prioritize vaccinations for education workers, the spokesperson said.

“In-person learning is the best and more equitable learning model for all students,” the spokesperson said.

The union has stated virtual learning was supposed to be temporary and that Ford’s plan to make it permanent attacked public education.

Hammond said the government has been working on a virtual learning plan that will divert funds from publicly funded education to private companies.

An attempt was made to contact the Ministry of Education but there has been no response.

A media release written by the ETFO said virtual learning can have detrimental impacts on student health and well-being.

Catherine Telesca, an early childhood educator at Humberwood Downs Junior Middle Academy in North Etobicoke, said virtual learning is putting a strain on her and the children in her class.

“When the children are learning at home it’s just not the same. I do not have control if they are able to engage as many of my students are developmentally delayed and rely on socializing with others,” Telesca said. “It also puts pressure on a parent to be present during all times of instruction to ensure learning is taking place.”

Schools in Ontario were closed to in-person learning indefinitely on April 12, days after the stay-at-home order was issued across the province.

This was because of high case numbers and the need to protect the healthcare system’s capacity.

Before Ford could make the announcement to move to remote learning, medical officers in Toronto, Peel Region and Guelph ordered schools to close due to high case numbers.

Medical officers across the province have expressed infection rates are now at a level to have discussions about when is the best time to reopen, Ford said.

School unions want schools to reopen as long as they can be done safely and believe that it is in the best interest of students, a teachers’ union spokesperson said.

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