Teachers aren't seeking injunctions to keep schools closed, say local unions

Local teachers' union officials say they haven't heard of any potential injunctions to keep schools closed, contrary to comments by Premier Doug Ford, but they've called on the Ontario government to ensure a return to the classroom is done safely.

Ontario Premier Ford says medical experts, teachers need to 'have agreement' on schools

The Ontario government says there are conflicting opinions on whether schools should reopen before the end of June. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Local teachers' union officials say they haven't heard of any potential injunctions to keep schools closed, but they've called on the Ontario government to ensure a return to the classroom is done safely.

Questions have swirled around whether in-class learning will resume before the end of June. During a media briefing on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said there's disagreement between medical experts about whether it's safe to reopen schools.

He also said teachers' unions "want to put injunctions in if we move forward." 

"So we just have to get around the table and make sure we have agreement on this," Ford said.

For now, students across the province will continue with remote learning.

New modelling released by the province's science advisory table on Thursday showed reopening schools would create an increase in cases of up to 11 per cent, but also said "this may be manageable."

Union 'mantra remains the same'

Patrick Etmanski, president of Waterloo Catholic Teachers of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), called Ford's comment about injunctions "a complete fabrication."

"Our mantra remains the same. We want kids in the schools. We also want them, and the staff, to be there safely," Etmanski said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

He said if the province moves to reopen schools without proper safety measures in place, "we will speak out against that."

Rob Gascho, president of District 24 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), said his members "continue to call for improved safety measures, which seems justified given the premier's own admission that the science table anticipated a case increase of as much as 11 per cent if schools reopen."

He called the injunction claim "a distraction tactic to try to shift the blame to teachers."

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said it "believes that in-person instruction is the best and most equitable experience for students, but it must be done safely."

ETFO also said it is "not aware of any current applications for injunction by a teacher union to prevent the reopening of schools in Ontario."

"This is just another attempt by the Ford government to deflect responsibility for their poor decision-making, mishandling of the pandemic and botched vaccine distribution plan," an ETFO statement said.

Schools should be 'first to open'

Local politicians have said the province needs to focus on getting students back in school safely.

Mike Schreiner, Green Party of Ontario leader and Guelph MPP, said in a statement Thursday that "schools should be the last place to close and the first to open."

He also criticized remote learning.

"The online school system simply isn't working. Students are falling behind and their mental health is suffering. Many teachers and parents are burnt out and frustrated."

In a joint statement, MPPs Laura Mae Lindo of Kitchener Centre and Catherine Fife of Waterloo, members of the Opposition NDP, called on the province to stop any discussions "to make remote learning permanent" and instead "focus on getting kids back to class safely."

"Countless parents have told us that emergency at-home learning is not a permanent solution for their kids," Lindo said in the news release.

Fife added that Education Minister Stephen Lecce should be "focusing his efforts on making schools safer, supporting educators, and ensuring that kids can safely return to school as soon as possible."


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