QUEEN’S PARK — As the Ford government sits on its hands instead of taking action to ensure a full return to schools in September, the Ontario NDP is putting forward an emergency action plan that would help get kids safely back to class five days a week in the fall and work for parents and teachers. That plan, captured in a motion tabled today by NDP Education critic Marit Stiles, includes steps like hiring more educators to allow for smaller class sizes and funding for extra supports for students who are struggling or have special needs and for school upgrades that will help with infection control.
“Parents have been juggling looking after their little ones, helping school-age kids keep up with remote learning and working from home since the province went into shutdown, and they’re worried about what’s going to happen at the start of the school year,” said Stiles. “If the government doesn’t get into gear and put Ontario on a path to a full, healthy and safe return to classes for students in September, some parents may have to drop out of the workforce.
“Doug Ford and his education minister should be moving mountains to get kids safely back school five days a week in the fall. Instead of taking action, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach, wiping their hands of the enormous problems parents are facing.”
In addition to hiring more staff and funding extra support for students and school upgrades, the NDP’s emergency action plan to get kids back to class includes:
- Maintaining job-protected leave and benefits for parents until school and child care are fully up and running again
- Funding to help keep the child care sector afloat
- Funding for more school buses to ensure physical distancing
- Making use of public infrastructure to support the re-opening of schools and daycares
- Ensuring ongoing access to emergency child care for essential workers
- Bringing together students, parents, education workers, unions and schools board in an advisory group to help guide COVID-19 recovery in schools
- Addressing the needs of students from Black, Indigenous and racialized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19
- Ensuring all workers have access to paid sick leave
“It’s not too late for the government to do its homework and get these things done,” said Stiles. “The NDP has a plan to ensure a full, safe return to classes in the fall, and we are ready and willing to help make it happen.”