by Zahraa Al Khalidi
The Government order allowed schools in seven public health unit to reopen physical classrooms which means 100,000 students have returned to classroom for the first time since before the winter break.
The list includes Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington; Hastings and Prince Edward Counties; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark; Peterborough; Renfrew County Grey Bruce; Haliburton, Kawartha, and Pine Ridge.
The province has implemented more safety measures in areas where schools have re-opened, including requiring students in grades 1 through 3 to wear masks indoors and when physical distancing isn’t an option.
Safety measures also introduced “targeting asymptomatic testing” and enhanced screening protocols in those regions.
While the government is doing its best to insure safety measures, some teachers like Megan Van Huyse, a member of the TDSB has mixed feelings and concerns about the call on reopening some schools.
“Unfortunately, with the younger grades it’s extremely hard to control what they touch and mask wearing which is why numbers have spiked in some areas. Workers, and more importantly the parents and government don’t seem to think our health is at risk since we continue to be the first people they test sending back while everyone else is in complete lockdown” Said Megan “It seems like they want to test out how sending the kids back goes at the risk of the teachers , without helping or supporting the teachers what so ever in the sense of ensuring that they will be working in a safe environment.”
The Toronto District School Board says that every school and instructional space has been reviewed, and that any classroom without mechanical ventilation has had a HEPA filter installed.
For this school year, the Ford government spent more than $460 million towards schools in preparation for COVID-19, and accepting $381 million in help from Ottawa that allows school boards to gain access to $500 million in existing reserve funds to help schools with the impact of the pandemic.
They also are planning to use an additional $381 million in funds from the federal government for the next school year to help school boards improve ventilation in classrooms.
With that said, the Ministry of Education has expanded eligibility for free childcare to include truckers, farmers, grocery and pharmacy workers and additional education staff required to be in schools.
This move impacts approximately 500,000 jobs to working parents in the province.