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school studentsParents and education workers take action at MPP offices across Ontario to demand a fully funded, safe return to schools.

While the government wastes time with endless non-announcements, foiling the opportunity to adequately prepare a safe return to school in September, parents and education workers are taking action to make their demands clear.

July 29th at 12 pm. Families, education workers, and concerned community will be visiting 122 MPP offices to demand full funding and real solutions to ensure a safe and equitable return to school.

The government has absolutely failed to address the learning and safety needs of Ontario’s children and education workers by adding only 7 cents per child per day toward COVID-19 school safety measures. This has left families and school staff without a safe plan to return to school in September. During the last weeks before the start of school, families and education workers have come together to call for a safe and equitable return to school and take collective action to send a strong message directly to the government. Actions will be taken at 122 MPP offices across Ontario with families and education workers attending individually and in small groups to leave clear demands with MPPs that funding is needed if schools are to reopen safely. Please see below for highlighted media sites.

“We know from the costing report released by the TDSB that the funding needed for a safe and equitable full-time return is more than $8/day per child, a far cry from the 7 cents/day that the government has allotted.” says Rachel Huot, of the Ontario Parent Action Network. “We reject this austerity framework that will lead to inferior learning and unsafe conditions for children and staff. We need our government to step up and properly confront the largest public health and education crisis of our time”.

“Small class cohorts are essential for a safe school re-opening, as are paid sick days for all workers. We know from other countries that it can be done, but it requires political will and funding.” says Becky Wallace, a parent with Ontario Families for Public Education. “By failing to provide the leadership and funding to get kids safely back in schools, the Ford government is failing thousands of families across Ontario. This erosion of our public education system will disportionately affect families in low income and racialized communities, while wealthier families are able to consider private options.”

“We need a plan that puts children first: hire more teachers, support staff, and caretakers; re-open schools that have been closed down, and rent or repurpose other spaces to create more classrooms and outdoor spaces,” says public high school teacher and parent, David Mandelzys, who organizes with the group Ontario Education Workers United. “Provide the required PPE that will help maintain safety; be ready with funding for those students who will be coming in hungry and traumatized; and make sure safe school reopenings are prioritized over non-essential economic reopenings.”

Parents and education workers have developed the following demands to ensure a safe and equitable return to school:

1. Fully-funded 5-day in-class learning with 15 or smaller student cohorts. Parents who choose not to send kids to school, or in the case of further school closures, need adequate, guaranteed job protection and income supports. This will ensure a single weekly cohort for children. Additional staffing and space will be required such as the reopening of closed schools, and the repurposing of other community spaces. We will need to fight to keep these class sizes post-pandemic.

2. Funded, safe, before- and after-school childcare centre reopenings which allow students to remain in their school cohorts. Funding to support a child care recovery plan as outlined in the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care Report “From Reopening to Recovery” https://www.childcareontario.org/from_reopening_to_recovery_a_plan

3. Safe Buildings: New funding for more custodians, PPE, cleaning supplies, and infrastructure repairs such as ventilation, sinks, and water bottle filling stations.

4. Funding for Health and Wellbeing: Free food programs and a public health nurse for every school to support a plan to respond to COVID-19 symptoms at school in a manner which is both responsive and respectful of the children.

5. Student Support: Funding for increased social and learning supports for students and families such as educational assistants, social workers, and child and youth workers.

6. Worker protections: 21 emergency paid sick days and full status for all workers including parents and caregivers in Ontario. This is essential so that students with symptoms of COVID-19 will be able to stay home from school without barriers. Flexible working schedules for parents and guaranteed income supplements when work is affected due to lack of childcare, layoffs, or illness, or further school shutdowns.

7. Addressing Racism: We support community demands such as those put forward by LAEN, BLM and Parents of Black Children and the TRC: Police-free schools across Ontario, K-postsecondary. Improved funding for Africentric and Indigenous programming and curriculum. Decolonized curriculum that addresses anti-Black racism, white supremacy, colonization, and all forms of systemic oppression & racism.

8. Equity: Additional funding to allow school boards to address systemic barriers, and inequity as they plan to reopen schools.

9. Housing Security: Provincial ban on evictions, and a funded strategy to house, with dignity, all in need of housing now.

source: media release, Ontario Parent Action Network

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