April 4, 2021 letter to TDSB Interim Director & Toronto Public Health

With cases rising in Toronto schools (please see attached chart from Sick Kids epidemiologist Diego Bassani), including VOC’s, with a teacher now on life support in a UHN hospital as a result of student to teacher transmission, and with what is certain to be a weekend where people visit each other regardless of the current “mock” down, I am writing on the long weekend to urge you to put worker and student safety above all other considerations at this time.
I know that the TDSB believes it has to wait for TPH to tell it to pivot.  TPH says it has to wait for the Ministry.  Neither is actually true.  In fact some Ontario Boards of Education that have fewer cases per capita than Toronto have already determined to pivot to remote learning.
TDSB has responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure a safe work environment, as well as an obvious responsibility to provide a safe learning environment. Under current conditions the TDSB cannot do either.  Minister Lecce’s “enhanced” safety protocols meant nothing new in Toronto and have had no appreciable impact on anyone’s health or safety.  Evidence is in fact to the contrary.
To be clear, my Members do not want to work from home, especially those who have their own children who would be impacted by school closure.  But even more, my Members do not want to be the next teacher or education worker to wind up on a ventilation system in a hospital as a result of exposure to a COVID-positive student.  Simply put, Teachers and Education Workers in Toronto are fearful for their lives.  Many, many are contemplating work refusals for Tuesday which, if they happen in the numbers we are hearing from, will place the system into further havoc.
You can prevent our Members from having to live in a state of heightened anxiety, from having to work in fear, and you can protect our Members from getting sick at work.  Pivot to remote now.