An open letter from Toronto Teachers and Education Workers
Christine Elliott, Ontario Minister of Health; Stephen Lecce, Ontario Minister of Education;
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto
Dr. Kathy Witherow, Interim Director, Toronto District School Board
Alexander Brown, Chair, Toronto District School Board
Toronto Teachers and Education Workers call on the Ford Government to fund asymptomatic testing at all TDSB schools and call on Toronto Public Health, the Government and the TDSB to keep schools closed for the first two weeks of January
The current pilot project of school-based, voluntary COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic cases has focused and clarified the COVID-19 picture in some select schools in Toronto, resulting in the closure of two Toronto District School Board elementary schools to date.
On behalf of all Teachers and Education Workers at the Toronto District School Board, we are calling on the Ontario Ministers of Education and Health, Toronto Public Health and the Toronto District School Board to extend this pilot project in order to assess the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in schools across the City on a regular and ongoing basis.
In addition, we are calling on Toronto Public Health and the Provincial Government to move all Toronto schools to online learning beginning January 4th, for at least the first two weeks after New Years’ Day, in order to ensure schools do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the post-holiday period, and in order to be ready to conduct regular, ongoing, school-based, voluntary asymptomatic testing of students and staff when the schools do reopen.
Public Health spokespersons have referred to the current record-setting numbers of positive COVID-19 tests as the “Thanksgiving Effect”. We want you to ensure that schools cannot contribute to a similar surge-effect on positive cases after the winter holidays. For this reason, we are calling for these actions to protect the health of Teachers, Education Workers, our students, their families, and the community at large, and to provide access to data on asymptomatic case transmission within schools. Teachers, Education Workers and families deserve to have a fact-based understanding of how healthy schools really are.
Premier Ford repeatedly says his Government will do everything in its power to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, yet so far his Government has refused to provide adequate funding to reduce elementary school classes to accomplish safe physical distancing, refused to provide timely or adequate funding for the upgrade of school air exchange systems, and has not provided adequate resources for contact tracing. We are calling on him to take these two actions to ensure a safer start to the New Year.
On behalf of the Teachers and Education Workers we represent, and the students and families of the Toronto District School Board, we urge the Ford Government, Toronto Public Health and the Toronto District School Board to heed our call for an extended closure of schools in the New Year, and an extended program of regular, ongoing asymptomatic testing once schools do reopen.
Leslie Wolfe, President, OSSTF Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit
Linda Bartram, President, OSSTF Occasional Teachers’ Bargaining Unit
Kimberly Perry, President, Professional Student Services Personnel
Jennifer Brown, President, Elementary Teachers of Toronto
John Weatherup, President, CUPE 4400, Toronto Education Workers