All students switching to e-learning for at least two weeks

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The rush to organize child care and tech support is on as students and families learned on Monday that the Ontario government was only pushing back online education for at least the next two weeks.

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Facing a vertical wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant, Premier Doug Ford announced the delay in in-person learning along with a number of other virus-related restrictions on Monday, just 48 hours before the planned reopening of K-12 schools.

This will give us time to put some of these security measures in place.

Last Thursday, the Ford government said in-person learning would only be delayed by two days, with a post-vacation restart scheduled for Wednesday.

“Parents are frustrated, teachers are frustrated and our kids are frustrated, they really wanted to go back to school,” said Mario Spagnuolo, Greater Essex local president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Canada. ‘Ontario. “We believe today’s decision is much safer than Thursday’s decision.”

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Mario Spagnuolo, President of the Greater Essex Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, in front of the ETFO offices in Tecumseh on December 15, 2021.
Mario Spagnuolo, President of the Greater Essex Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, in front of the ETFO offices in Tecumseh on December 15, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Spagnuolo said two days for in-person learning was not enough for the safety of educators and students.

“It’s just not reasonable without N95 masks, HEPA filters and there are no quick tests for the staff,” Spagnuolo said. “And many of our educators were unable to receive a callback. They are always in line because there is such a backlog. This will give us time to put some of these security measures in place. ”

The government had previously announced that it would provide N95 masks to educators facing a much more transmissible variant and 3,000 additional HEPA filters for schools in the province.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board expected delivery of N95 masks on Tuesday and it will receive 30 additional HEPA filters. The Greater Essex County District School Board expected the N95 masks for staff to arrive by Friday, if not sooner, according to Director of Education Erin Kelly.

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Kelly said the board has also been assigned additional HEPA filters. She noted that Monday’s announcement was made “of concern and concern over the spread of this variant.”

Ford said students would be online until at least January 17, when the stability of the healthcare system would be reassessed.

“I know that online learning is not ideal,” said Ford. “We want to protect students and teachers.
Emelda Byrne, director of education for the Catholic council, called the move to distance learning “safe and careful”.

“It’s a decision that is in the best interests of staff, students and families,” Byrne said. “I hope distance learning is only for this short time. “

Byrne noted that due to the dramatic increase in the number of cases, “I think it would have become an operational issue for our board to adequately staff our classrooms due to the increased absenteeism,” though face-to-face learning resumed this week.

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The administration of the two councils met with the directors on Monday.

“One of the things we need to do is communicate with parents and staff about the processes and make sure people have the devices they need for distance learning,” Kelly said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was quick to criticize Ford’s latest pandemic plan.

“Parents are horrified – another school closure is a blow to the well-being of the children,” Horwath said in a statement.

This is the third time that students have been taken to e-learning since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario called for a short timeframe for in-person learning, but noted that “this shift to distance learning is frustrating because we know it would have to be. could have been avoided if the province had funded and implemented security measures at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, not half measures, ”said President Karen Brown.

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Ford did not respond to a reporter’s question on Monday as to whether he would tighten school safety measures in the two-week period that followed.

Barb Dobrowski, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, called on the government to use the coming weeks to prioritize reminders for educators, get rapid tests in schools, provide N95s for all, restore the count cases and organize vaccination clinics for students.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Ford government has taken a wait-and-see approach to COVID-19, then rushed to make last-minute decisions that offer little more than half-measures,” Dobrowski said in a press release. “Today’s decision, which came just four days after their latest ‘plan’ was announced, was completely avoidable. This is yet another reactionary measure in a long list that stems from this government’s abdication of leadership, which has repeatedly failed students, parents, teachers, education workers and all Ontarians. .

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Annie Kidder, Executive Director of People for Education, took to social media to encourage immunization mandates for staff and students and the creation of a COVID Education Advisory Committee comprised of experts in health and in education.

St. Clair College and the University of Windsor had previously announced a postponement of in-person learning until later in January.

mcaton@postmedia.com

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