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LETTER: Ontario can't rush to reopen schools, says reader

Parents, students, educators and the community await ministerial guidelines that will ensure everyone’s safety in the fall
stephen lecce 1 2020-01-27
Education Minister Stephen Lecce is shown in a file photo from a visit to Barrie in January. Shawn Gibson/BarrieToday

InnisfilToday welcomes letters to the editor at natasha@villagemedia.ca. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication).
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Earlier this week, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced that Ontario schools will remain closed until September.
 
Parents, students, educators and the entire community now await ministerial guidelines that will ensure everyone’s safe return to school in the fall.
 
Our economy hinges on a safe reopening of schools. If we see a poorly planned reopening and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, Ontario will face repeated closures of the economy.
 
But more importantly, if schools reopen without careful, thorough, detailed planning using input from all stakeholders, including front-line workers in education, Ontario will face a spike in illness and fatalities.

Ontario must not gamble with another rushed plan. It was only a year ago that the Conservatives announced, “An ill-conceived autism funding reboot that threw 23,000 autistic children into chaos.”

The result?

“We lost a year — families have gone through an incredible amount of pain and anxiety and suffering,” said Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition.

At the May 19 Barrie-Innisfil education town hall, parents, educators and education critic MPP Marit Stiles flagged dozens of concerns for the Ford government to contemplate as they plan to reopen our schools.

For example: 

  • How will class sizes be reduced to allow for safe physical-distancing measures?

  • If a teacher or student contracts COVID, what will be the protocol?

  • How will students who require one-on-one support be accommodated?

  • Will students and teachers be provided PPE and sanitizer?

  • When will the boards receive funding levels to plan appropriately for September. 

In partnership with our medical officers, educators and parents can help develop and put in place the solutions needed for a safe opening.

Unfortunately, over the past academic school year, Minister Lecce and Premier Ford have spent endless hours on commercials and tweets railing against educators, trying to undermine their good standing in our communities. Parents have been caught in the crossfire. This has led to an erosion of trust between educators, parents and the government. 

Without trust, without a respectful process to provide input that is actually taken into consideration, and without real collaboration with front-line workers, the Ford government risks a dangerous and costly nightmare come September

Everyone wants our kids to be safe. Front-line workers in education hope that this government will work with them to build back the trust that has been lost over the last year of contract negotiations and disputes in order to keep our children and their families safe.

We will not accept anything less than the best for our children.

Pekka Reinio
Barrie

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