QUEEN’S PARK — NDP Education critic Marit Stiles (Davenport) issued the following statement as students across the province start heading back to school:
“Students heading back to school this week are likely facing a mix of emotions; excitement at getting to see friends and teachers after a long time apart, and a tremendous amount of anxiety about the risk of COVID-19 and new restrictions and safety protocols.
COVID-19 infections are on the rise again in Ontario, and most children are being sent into a school and a classroom where they can’t possibly physically distance. Yet the legitimate concerns of parents, teachers, education workers and kids are being brushed off by Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Premier Doug Ford.
Students and staff don’t need to hear a defence of the Ford scheme. They need to see action to divide up classes into smaller groups.
If there was a Horwath government in place right now, we’d be hiring teachers, bus drivers, custodians and educational assistants, lining up temporary classroom spaces, and preparing to divide classes into smaller groups right away.
Parents and guardians, teachers and education workers are doing their best to support kids while managing their own concerns and anxieties. Teachers and education workers have been challenged to deliver the same quality of education and student safety as before the pandemic, but under exceptional circumstances.
It is undeniable that the Ford government’s failure to fund smaller, safer classes has added unnecessary risks to students’ return to school. Until there is a plan in place that gives Ontario’s kids the best chance at staying safe and avoiding a steep second wave of infections, the Official Opposition will keep fighting for smaller, safer classrooms, and more supports.”