QUEEN’S PARK — The Doug Ford government is tasking already-stretched school boards with the work of COVID-19 testing for students, and planning to test too few kids to help stop the variants, said NDP Education critic Marit Stiles.
“School boards and school staff are already doing the incredibly difficult job of juggling online and in-class learning. Dumping responsibility for testing onto them is not going to work," said Stiles.
“The more contagious variants are in our communities, and are threatening to start a third wave. Testing students and preventing the spread of this virus is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-do if we want out of this cycle of sickness and lockdowns.”
The NDP as well as health experts have long been calling for a comprehensive in-school testing program that’s convenient for students, teachers and education workers. That will take more than 50,000 tests – which is the top limit proposed by the Ford government, although they’re currently getting nowhere near it.
On Sunday, the Ford government issued a memo to school boards that raised more questions than it answered. The memo asked boards to identify education workers who could conduct testing, and encouraged other staff to visit pharmacies for testing.
The memo set testing targets of just 2 per cent of their student populations a week, with scant information on how the data will be analyzed or used.
“If the NDP were the government today, we would dramatically limit the spread in classrooms by capping class sizes at 15, installing COVID-safe tools like touchless faucets, improving ventilation, and bringing in comprehensive in-school testing program so we can have students, teachers and education workers back in schools knowing it’s as safe as can be,” said Stiles.