Safer schools must be part of second wave plan
QUEEN’S PARK — With SickKids now confirming that physical distancing isn’t possible with Ontario’s standard class sizes, Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on Doug Ford to listen to medical experts and cap class sizes.
“Parents, teachers, education workers, experts and students have been saying for months that we need smaller, safer classrooms to keep students and staff safe, and stop the spread of this horrific virus,” said Horwath. “The second wave is coming. This report by the experts at SickKids should be the final red flag to Ford that his bargain basement, penny-pinching scheme is dangerous, and we need a new plan urgently — a plan that prioritizes kids’ safety over Ford’s bottom line.”
SickKids has released preliminary findings from a study that looked at the impact of public health measures like hand washing and mask wearing in classrooms. Among the findings was that, for kids to stay two metres apart in a typical classroom, class sizes would have to be capped at 12 to 15 students.
“It’s disappointing that the Ford government has wasted so much time, staging unrealistic photo ops at schools and launching ads to defend their bargain basement scheme,” added Ontario NDP Education critic Marit Stiles. “After months of learning from home, students and educators are losing even more precious time because the government wouldn’t budge on class numbers, and cases among students and staff are already making their way into schools.”
Horwath said safer, smaller classes must be part of the province’s planning for a second wave of COVID-19, and must be enacted right away. She also pressed the Ford government again in question period Tuesday for a full second-wave strategy. Horwath has long been laying out solutions for that strategy, including things like smaller, safer classes to make children safe, hiring thousands of personal support workers in long-term care to make seniors safe, and funding hospitals properly to clear the painful 84-month wait for scheduled surgeries, with a contingency plan to keep surgeries going during the second wave.