As Sept. 8 and the start of school creeps closer I cannot express how frightened I am becoming.
As Sept. 8 and the start of school creeps closer I cannot express how frightened I am becoming. I’m not scared for myself, but for every student, teacher, parent, education worker, custodian, secretary, ECE and every family member in their bubble right now in Ontario.
I have been an elementary teacher with the Lambton Kent District school board since 1991, but am not on the frontline and in the schools right now.
Over my career I have taught kindergarten up to Grade 8 and special education in multiple schools, and I understand and have experienced the behaviours and learning styles of children of all ages. I was a Grade 1 teacher the year of SARS. This COVID-19 pandemic though is extremely terrifying. Scientists around the world are still figuring it out.
I want to share my perspective on some key issues in Lambton Kent. I know we have packed elementary classrooms with 24 and more students, and it will be impossible to ensure physical distancing among our student population with the latest plan from the Ontario government.
Especially concerning are kindergarten classrooms. Even though there may be two educators in the room, there will still be upwards of 30 children in a confined space.
The kindergarten classes of today have children engaged in play-based learning throughout the day. They will have great difficulty if made to sit in desks in rows for a whole school day. They are extremely active and have less self-regulation than older students. The same can be said for Grade 1 and 2 students. The fact our youngest students from kindergarten to Grade 3 are not being required to wear masks is extremely troubling, as we know they need to be protected from the possible transmission among each other.
Another huge concern is the two-metre physical distancing and mask wearing for indoor activities that the government seems to be ignoring with their stance that one metre is sufficient within schools. School boards have a duty to take every precaution and reasonable measure to protect the safety of students and staff.
The Ontario government is risking the health and safety and the lives and wellness of all of our students, their families and the workers in our elementary schools.
Where is the Ministry of Labour? Why have we heard nothing from them? They are responsible to protect education workers and administrators. Why is the minister of education ignoring the Sick Kids hospital report on return to school? Why are they not ensuring smaller class sizes to ensure physical distancing can be maintained?
Boards must ensure the safety of all in our schools. The government needs to rewrite their flawed plan and supply sufficient funding for smaller classes, the rental of additional classroom space and the hiring of more educators to provide the instruction to the smaller classes and to students who will participate in distance learning.
We cannot have this government gamble with the safety of students, staff, parents and their communities.
President, Lambton Kent Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario