Mock classroom shows students 'elbow to elbow' as parents protest Ontario’s school plans
TORONTO -- Parents calling for changes to the Ontario government’s back-to-school plan set up a mock classroom at Queen’s Park in an effort to showcase their safety concerns.
The 20 by 33 foot ‘classroom’ set up by the Ontario Parent Action Network [OPAN] Wednesday morning depicted space for 33 students and aimed to demonstrate how close students will be sitting come September.
“I know that this disease isn’t going to necessarily infect en mass, but I am worried about them passing it on to the community, to our members of our family, seniors,” mother of three Joy Henderson told CTV News Toronto.
“My kids are getting ready to say goodbye to their grandparents for another year basically because they don’t want to pass on the disease back to them.”
Concerns brought forth by the group include ventilation in the classroom, how outbreaks will be managed, the lack of sinks with water and soap, the need more janitorial staff to clean schools, supports available to quarantine students and the mixing of students from the classroom and after-school child-care programs.
Mississauga mother Jill Promoli spoke at the protest about the stress and uncertainty the current plan is creating.
Promoli told the crowd her two year-old child died in 2016 from a type of influenza. She said an autopsy later confirmed the child contacted the illness from another sibling attending school.
“One case can cause an outbreak. One case can become the reason someone loses their life, their loved one,” Promoli said.
OPAN is calling for more creative solutions and more funding to address their concerns.
Under the plan, elementary school children in kindergarten through to Grade 8 will return to school five days a week across Ontario for a full day and non-medical masks will be mandatory for students in Grade 4 to Grade 12.
Secondary schools in designated boards will open on an adapted model, with class cohorts of approximately 15 students attending class on alternate days or schedules. This would represent in-person attendance for at least 50 per cent of instructional days.
Improvements to ‘quality of room’ coming: Premier
On Wednesday afternoon Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked about improving ventilation at schools.
“The Minister of Education will be coming out in the next very short while for an announcement, again it goes back to we are listening, from the health experts to the teacher’s union,” the premier said.
He said the government will continue to work and collaborate with others to make teachers and parents feel comfortable about schools reopening.
“I want to make sure we have the safest environment possible,” he said.
Ford also said while there won’t be significant changes to the reopening plan, there will be some improvements.
“Just the quality of the room that the kids go into. I can’t let his announcement go out the window so I’m going to stop there, but it’s going to be a great announcement, a positive announcement.”