Hon. Stephen Lecce
Minister of Education
5th Flr, 438 University Ave
Toronto, ON M7A 2A5
Dear Minister Lecce,
At the time of writing this letter, Ontario is seeing an alarming upward trend of new positive cases of COVID-19. Even more concerning is that contact tracing cannot keep up with the new influx of cases, indicating a significant degree of community spread.
This community spread is being reflected in Ontario’s education system, as cases are reported in staff and in students in nearly every region and education system – public and Catholic, English and French. In Pembroke and Nepean, entire schools have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks in the first few weeks of school.
As the public health situation changes across the province – not only in urban regions, but also in rural Ontario – the comfort level of families sending their children to classrooms is also changing.
My office has already been contacted by the family of a student in my riding who initially enrolled for in-class learning when the COVID-19 pandemic seemed under control and the risks were more manageable. Now that daily numbers of COVID-19 are consistently above 100 in Toronto and infections have been confirmed in Toronto schools, the student and their family can no longer justify the risks of in-class education. However, the student has been prevented from switching from in-class instruction and enrolling in virtual learning.
This is not an isolated case. Across the province, anxieties about COVID-19 in schools are sky-high. School boards simply do not have the required resources to make schools as safe as possible by reducing class sizes to allow for physical distancing, nor do they have the resources to ensure continuity of education as the second wave of COVID-19 unfolds.
I am urgently requesting that you flow funding from the unused federal transfers for COVID-19 response measures to school boards. Boards need both funding and direction to enable students to access online learning right away. I’m calling on your government to develop, fund and implement a Continuity of Education Access Plan so that students can switch between in-class and virtual learning, either for an entire term or because they are in self-isolation.
Additional resources are badly needed to keep schools safe and ensure that our students continue to access a quality education during these turbulent times. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the meagre resources directed to Ontario’s school boards have been insufficient. The government’s plan as it stands is not working for students and families.
Ontarians need their government to take action. Words alone will not protect our students, families, and communities from the COVID-19 pandemic, but investment and action can.
I am available to discuss this request with you at any time.