Ontario teachers post photos exposing reality of province's back-to-school plan
TORONTO -- Ontario teachers are posting photos on social media of their crowded classrooms in an effort to prove that schools in the province are not ready for a safe reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford has been battling with the province’s teachers’ unions for weeks now over his government’s back-to-school plan, which some educators say fails to incorporate essential public health measures.
In a last-minute plea for help, teachers are now sharing with the public images of their classrooms filled with numerous desks in close proximity.
The province had asked to boards and teachers to arrange classrooms in a way that allows for physical distancing by removing unnecessary furniture and placing desks at least one metre apart for elementary schools and at least two metres apart for high schools.
Some of the images show classrooms with more than 25 desks jammed closely together despite advice from public health officials asking people to keep two metres apart at all times.
But many teachers posting online say it’s not possible to achieve even a one metre distance between desks due to the classroom sizes and number of desks needed for each student.
“Today was a sad day,” one Ontario teacher wrote on Twitter. “I removed all of my collaborative work tables for rows of desks. With 24 students packed in my class during a pandemic, I barely have room for all let alone one metre between each desk.”
While the Ford government allowed school boards to dip into their reserve funds to hire additional teachers and reduce class sizes, many boards, including the Toronto District School Board, warned earlier this month that it will still be impossible to guarantee two metres of physical distancing in its classrooms.
Ford dismissed the concerns and called Ontario’s back-to-school plan the “safest” in the Canada. He also slammed the teachers’ unions saying they are not cooperating and are looking for problems.
"I'm asking for the teachers' unions cooperation," Ford said in a news conference last month. "Why can't the teachers' unions get along with us?"
"(They're) just constantly, you know, out there fighting. We can't get things done. I just don't understand it. I just don't."
Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce have also posted photos of classrooms in Ontario that they visited on social media recently.
The classrooms in the pictures show desks spread out with lots of room for physical distancing, but several educators say that’s not a reality for many schools in the province.
“Just finished setting up my classroom with 25 desks!! No matter what [Ford] or [Lecce] has to say, we are not able to physically distance in this space,” one teacher from Caledon, Ont. wrote on Twitter.
“They’ve ‘invested’ so much money we have all lost count!! Yet my class has 25 desks, sitting 61 cm apart, waiting for my students to fill them!”