Little reassurance for parents concerned about class sizes
LONDON, ONT. -- A press conference about a provincial investment in child care was sidetracked by questions about Ontario's plan to return children to classrooms.
Premier Doug Ford, along with Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott held a news conference to announce $230 million in collaborative funding with the federal government to invest in enhanced cleaning and safety measures for Ontario child care centres.
But the education minister was repeatedly asked about concerns raised by parents, teachers and the Toronto Health board about the back-to-school plan.
"The plan is a living document that will respond to emerging evidence," Lecce said. "We’ve put funding in place to enable more hiring, we encourage the school board to utilize those funds to do that."
For parents like Autumn Buckingham, that’s cold comfort. She and her youngest son are immunocompromised, while her oldest son is expected to begin junior kindergarten in September.
"Having my older son exposed to 30 kids plus staff is terrifying to me."
Buckingham cites the lack of information and concrete plans for the fall as her source of anxiety.
"It’s a big headache, I’m very stressed out. I know his father is also stressed out. I feel like we’re just being tossed to the wolves a little bit, trying to figure things out."
Local president of the Elementary Teachers Federation, Craig Smith, says his members are equally unnerved about the start of school.
"The big variable in all of this is COVID-19 itself. We just don’t know how that is going to go," he says. "So, we’re working our way through that. We expect that the board will be in a position to release its local plan to teachers and education community as a whole probably by about mid-week - by Wednesday."
Middlesex-London Health Unit Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris Mackie responded to questions during his daily briefing on Friday about how outbreaks will be handled in schools.
"It doesn’t necessarily mean that one case would not close schools. Every situation however will be examined on its merits. And there may be situations where a small number of cases does justify a closure. We’ll work closely with the schools so we have the right information to make those decisions."
Parents with students in the Thames Valley District School Board have until Aug. 18 to register their children for either in-school learning, or opt for remote learning.
The choice can be made through the Parent Portal of the board's website.