Students deserve safe schools but a year and a half into the pandemic, the Ontario government has failed to act to create safer classrooms for children to return to.
With millions of unvaccinated children going back to school this September, the Ontario government needs to do better to create a safer September. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccinations. Research shows COVID-19 does spread among children and as a result, the virus can be transmitted to the greater community – including all school staff. Taking action now can curb the spread and save lives.
1) Failure to Act on Reducing Class Sizes. Health experts have repeatedly called for smaller class sizes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 among students. Even though all children under 12 are currently unvaccinated, large class sizes still remain the reality for them. Hiring more teachers and education workers would go a long way to helping reduce class sizes, but the Ford government refuses to act.
2) Strong action on upgrading ventilation systems to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Improved ventilation systems are needed at all indoor spaces to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and all around the world, businesses and organizations are upgrading ventilation systems as a key way to keeping people safe. Though hundreds of millions were approved to fix the issue, many schools have yet to see adequate ventilation upgrades to keep children safe. The government has failed to be transparent on which schools have seen changes, what specific improvements have been made and whether those changes are adequate.
3) Lack of improvements in contact tracing and rapid testing. A year in, Ontario has failed to create a robust contract tracing and rapid testing program to ensure greater protection for Ontario’s residents and minimize disruptions to schools, businesses and communities. The infrastructure is simply not in place.
4) Creating safer schools means increased vaccination rates among students 12 and older, who are currently eligible, education workers and teachers. Even in more vaccinated countries, those who are predominantly getting symptomatic COVID-19 infections are the unvaccinated. Ensuring strong vaccination rates reduces the likelihood of infection and potential to spread and ultimately, ensures safer schools.
5) Maintaining safe practices like masking and physical distancing. The Ford government will risk the health of students if it prematurely removes masking at schools in September. Masks are vital in curbing the spread of the virus, which is airborne. Masks are essential considering millions of children are still unvaccinated. By wearing a mask, students better protect themselves and their fellow students.