Ontario is on the precipice of entering Stage 3 of reopening, where even bars will be allowed to host people indoors (with physical distancing measures), but many are wondering why the province still has no plan to reopen schools in September.

Doug Ford’s government has drawn criticism from the public for hatching a plan for the reopening of bars, but not schools that are scheduled to resume full-time in September. There is currently no plan in place to ensure how teachers and students will remain safe. 

Critics have said that this creative process of how to safely reopen schools in September should have started months ago. The Ministry of Education has asked all 72 of Ontario’s school boards to present reopening models by August. Financial projections of Toronto’s school boards models indicate that a lack of education funding has put schools in a vulnerable position. 

For example, one of the models suggests regular-length school days with at most 15 students per class. According to Toronto school board Ryan Bird, this model would need 2,500 more teachers and cost $249 million. The most favourable option at the moment is reopening with class sizes as before the pandemic, but with additional health and safety protocols that haven’t been specified yet. 

Ford’s lack of planning, however, is creating anxiety among parents about sending kids back to school in September. Returning children to school is voluntary for parents, but some argue that a flimsy plan will prove even more disastrous for women, who have been harder hit by the economic recession caused by the pandemic. 

In June, the Ford government announced that it was investing $736 million more in the 2020-21 school year – about $250 extra per student. But critics have argued that this is not nearly enough to make up for funding cuts per student that Ford made in 2019. Nor is it enough to create a safe environment for kids, which includes reducing the size of classes, hiring more teachers, buying more tables and personal protective equipment (PPE). Instead, the burden of ensuring safety is currently being placed on parents. 

A careless plan for reopening schools will certainly affect teachers and students, and may even result in a spike of Covid-19 cases or hurt the economy as parents, women especially, have to stay home longer to care for children.

Demand a public inquiry into Ontario long-term care