Toronto

Parents call on Ontario government to ensure full-time learning in school this fall

Scores of parents called on the Ontario government on Saturday to reopen schools for full-time classes this fall with safety measures in place amid the pandemic.

Organizer says parents want 'well-thought out plan' from education ministry

Bronwen Alsop, an organizer of the rally, addresses a crowd of parents at Queen's Park and calls for a return to full-time learning in the fall. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Scores of parents called on the Ontario government on Saturday to reopen schools for full-time classes this fall with safety measures in place amid the pandemic.

At a rally at the Ontario legislature, parents said a regular school schedule is vital to health and well-being of children and important for an "equitable" economic recovery. Such a schedule means the students would be in class five days a week.

Bronwen Alsop, an organizer of the rally, told CBC News that parents want a "well-thought out" plan from the government that allows for full-time learning. Alsop is a mother of two children with special needs.

The Ontario government should fund the safety protocols needed to make learning in the classroom happen, she said.

In a statement to CBC News, Education Minister Stephen Lecce's spokesperson Alexandra Adamo said they are "working with school boards and education partners to ensure students can return on a daily basis."

According to a recent directive from the Ontario education ministry, the government has asked school boards to prepare for three scenarios: in-class learning, online learning or a hybrid model that would be a mixture of both.

"We have consistently asked school boards for three scenarios, because we have an obligation to parents and students to be ready for all challenges that may arise over the coming months," Adamo wrote in the statement. "The clear preference is to get students in class daily in September, however, Ontario must and will be ready for all circumstances that could arise."

A boy at the rally holds a sign at the rally at Queen's Park. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

But Alsop said parents aren't sure the hybrid plan is the best option.

"We would like to ensure that our children and our teachers are safe," she said on Saturday before the rally.

"We do not believe the hybrid plan is going to work for the children. We want to make sure that our children have extra safety precautions in the room, more staff, more funding dedicated to make sure they are completely safe for five days a week."

Alsop said the hybrid plan could result in more infections because children could be in daycare on the days they are not in class. 

She added that leaving it up to individual school boards to work out a plan for the school year puts a lot of pressure on those boards. The province needs a full financial plan to make sure that children and teachers are safe, she said.

The rally came a day after the Toronto District School Board asked the province to reassess its plan for next school year. 

Alsop said online learning is very difficult for families with special needs children. She added her own children benefit tremendously from the structure of the classroom.

 

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