QUEEN'S PARK — Tuesday marks six weeks to go until the first day of school for most Ontario students, and the Ford government’s plan for the coming school year is well overdue, says NDP Education critic Marit Stiles.
"The past year has been an enormous struggle for so many families, and too many have seen their kids' mental and emotional health suffer," Stiles said. "With the six-week countdown now on to the first day of school, parents need to know how the government will keep their children safe while ensuring an uninterrupted, in-person school year complete with extracurriculars. That plan has to include small class sizes, improved ventilation, extra mental health supports, curriculum adjustments, paid sick days for all parents, teachers and education workers, and having as many students vaccinated as possible."
Tuesday is the last day students could get their first dose of the vaccine to be on track to be fully protected by the first day of school — but Ford and Lecce haven’t released a strategy to get all kids vaccinated.
"Less than 40 per cent of kids aged 12 to 17 are vaccinated, yet Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce seem to think it's okay to simply cross their fingers and hope more kids get the shot at some point,” said Stiles. “They should have had a strategy in place long ago to ensure our schools re-open to in-person full-time learning, and stay open.
“I think it’s pretty clear Doug Ford doesn’t believe in investing in public education, and I’m increasingly worried that kids, teachers, education workers and families are going to keep paying the price for that. Ford’s 2021 budget cut $800 million out of classrooms compared to last year, and that’s going to have an impact on our kids. They deserve better.”
Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP believe a Safe September plan must include small class sizes so kids can physically distance and be supported with one-on-one help as they recover academically and emotionally.
The NDP is also calling for minimum ventilation standards, mental health supports, and a vaccination strategy for students, plus paid sick days and family care days for all parents, teachers and education workers, so parents can keep sick kids at home.