Open Letter from TDSB union leaders to TDSB Director & Chair; Chief Medical Officer, Toronto; Ontario Minister of Health: A call for action

(original attached)

To: The Toronto District School Board Interim Director; The Toronto District School Board Chair; Chief Medical Officer, Toronto Public Health and 

We are writing with four urgent concerns on behalf of the forty thousand frontline education workers employed by the Toronto District School Board.

  1. Educators working in bricks and mortar schools remain at high risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.  In addition, every time these workers are exposed to COVID-19, they must self-isolate, which is causing a growing concern about schools being left understaffed.  We call on the Provincial Government and Toronto Public Health to ensure that all education workers currently working in-person be considered High Risk and beginning with those workers in congregated special education sites and classrooms, that they be eligible to receive their first vaccine at the beginning of Phase 2.
  2. Currently, there are schools across the system with no caretakers, or no administrators, or where multiple classes are home self-isolating, and the staff who came into contact with these groups also home self isolating, and where replacement workers are simply not available.  It is unacceptable to us that schools are being kept open through the reassignment of secondary administrators to elementary schools and classrooms, breaking the school cohort. We call on the Toronto District School Board to make public their threshold for safe staffing levels of schools, and in the interest of safety, when this threshold cannot be achieved, the remaining staff and students revert to remote teaching and learning. 
  3. The Easter long weekend poses similar risks of families gathering as did the winter break, which included Christmas and New Years.  We are concerned about what that means for the potential of COVID-19 transmission in schools in the four days following the long weekend and prior to the spring break the following week. We call for a shift to online learning for the four days after the long weekend, and for at least the first week after the spring break in order to keep schools as safe as possible.
  4. All education workers exposed to a person with a positive COVID-19 test result are required to self-isolate, however many of these workers are daily occasional workers with no access to sick leave. On February 9, 2021 the Trustees of the Toronto District School Board unanimously passed a motion asking the Ontario Government to mandate all employers to provide a minimum of 5 days paid sick leave.  We call on the Toronto District School Board to lead by example by providing its own precariously employed workers with paid sick leave for the days that Toronto Public Health requires them to self-isolate.

On behalf of the frontline education workers of the Toronto District School Board,

Jennifer Brown
President, Elementary Teachers of Toronto

Linda Bartram
President, OSSTF Occasional Teachers

Rob Fulford
President, Elementary Teachers Federation Toronto Occasional Teachers

Kimberly Perry
President, OSSTF Professional Student Support Personal

John Weatherup
President, Toronto Education Workers

Leslie Wolfe
President, OSSTF Toronto Teachers