|The contents of the Provincial OSSTF COVID Update #23 is copied below:
April 6, 2021 • ISSUE 23
Over the past few weeks, cases of COVID-19 have increased significantly in many areas of the province. When the government imposed a province-wide “emergency brake” last week, they did not include a call to move students to remote learning, downloading the decision and responsibility to local health units and school boards.
Reported cases in schools are far higher than at the time the December lockdown was ordered by the province, which prompted a move to remote learning for many schools in the province. Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has continued a false narrative that schools remain safe and they are not a significant source of community transmission of COVID-19.
Some medical experts have become more vocal about the increasing spread of COVID-19 in schools, including Dr. Abdu Sharkawy at Toronto Western Hospital, who was quoted in the media on April 3 saying, “The myth that somehow schools are immune to being able to transmit this virus, it’s got to end.”
Yesterday, the Peel District Medical Officer of Health used his power under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act to close school buildings as of today, moving students to remote learning for at least two weeks. Other medical officers of health and school boards have decided to move to remote learning, including in the Northern Ontario regions of Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Superior Greenstone.
Stephen Lecce and the Progressive Conservative government have failed students and all those who work in the publicly-funded education system. Lecce promotes the fiction that he and his government have kept communities and schools safe; the recent spike in community and school-related cases proves otherwise.
We firmly believe that the most vulnerable citizens, including elderly Ontarians, front-line healthcare workers, those who work in long-term care homes must be prioritized, as well as those who are highly vulnerable to the virus, especially those in areas with high case counts.
To that end, we are calling on the government to shift to remote learning, especially in areas where case counts are increasing at alarming rates, until education workers and teachers have had the opportunity to receive the vaccine and for it to have taken effect—in other words, “Virtual Till Vaccinated.”
OSSTF/FEESO continues to work with local leaders to monitor areas in the province where COVID-19 cases reported in schools are spiking. Senior OSSTF/FEESO personnel have been meeting weekly with legal counsel and a medical expert to monitor the situation and prepare the next steps. We have been exploring a range of options, including legal ones, available to us to make schools and workplaces for members and students safe.
More details will become available at a special meeting of local leaders on the evening of April 7.