BRANTFORD and TORONTO — NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Education critic Marit Stiles say Doug Ford’s refusal to make investments into student and staff safety in schools this September is rolling the dice with kids’ wellbeing — risking outbreaks and at-home learning days, and risking kids’ academic and emotional recovery.
“Ontario should be doing everything possible to protect students and staff, and prevent in-school learning from being disrupted by outbreaks or exposures,” said Horwath. “But Doug Ford is cutting $800 million from schools for this school year, which means penny pinching on the safety plan. He’s allowing jam-packed classrooms again. He’s not taking any new actions to get kids vaccinated or help them recover, academically or emotionally. He’s rolling the dice with our kids’ wellbeing.
“What we should have seen today is a massive investment in things like small class sizes, paid sick days and mental health and learning supports for struggling kids.”
Ford’s scheme does not invest in lower class sizes. It skimps on ventilation improvements. It does not fund more mental health help or education support staff to help kids recover. Ford’s scheme does not include paid sick days for parents and all school staff. And it does not include any support whatsoever to increase vaccination rates among students.
Horwath, Stiles and the NDP have been calling for a Safe September plan that includes all of those things.
“This plan is months late and millions of dollars short — and it’s clearly taking risks with our kids,” said Stiles. “If we lower the risk of outbreaks and exposures, we prevent kids from having to be sent home again. Instead, Ford’s decided to save a buck on the backs of students, teachers, education workers, families, and our province’s progress in the fight against COVID-19. He’s again relying on painful remote learning, and frustrating quadmesters.
“Putting 40 kids in a class again is a risk. Taking no new actions to get more kids vaccinated is a risk. Hoping kids recover, academically and emotionally, when they’re in crowded classrooms with no extra caring adults to turn to is a big risk. Let’s not take risks like that."