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Local teachers’ unions left with more questions than answers as province releases school plan

Some say the back to school plan from the province is not a plan

Two of Waterloo Region's teachers' unions express they are left with questions after the province released its back-to-school plan for September.

"Everyone wants clarity. Very often over the past 18 months, boards have come up with plans, and the government often the following day release a plan that contradicts what the board has created. When the plans are very vague boards, have to rely on the information provided on the plan. Then, when things change, they have realigned those changes, making it more confusing," said Jeff Pelich with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Waterloo Region. 

Pelich said the idea around exempting masks is still very confusing. He said the plan has no guideline on what testing and tracing will look like or the method for outbreaks and confirmed cases in schools come September.

"When will the mask exemption be provided? Will the student, be required to wear another type of masking equipment, or will they go on as if nothing is going on. Even with the physical distance, they say provide as much distancing, well what does that mean? What does that look like?"

"Kindergartens are now recommended to wear masks, which is a step backward. Nothing is done to reduce class sizes in elementary. We are looking at class sizes at 28, 29 or 30 kids, perhaps in a portable with limited ventilation. Everything we have been asking to have dealt with has not been sold with," said Patrick Etmanski with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, Waterloo Region.

The plan released on Tuesday shared students can return to classroom learning in September. The province stated high school students will continuing the quad-mester learning. Etmanski explained this style of learning is very problematic.

"All the secondary teachers that I know have been hoping for a regular semester system starting September, so I know they will be very disappointed with the announcement; quad-mester learning is far from ideal for secondary students. Hopefully, by February, that will change, and we can do a full semester system," said Etmanski.

The province's plan also outlined the return of extracurricular activities; however, Etmanski said that too is confusing regarding what is and isn't allowed. "What is a high contact inside sport? Is that basketball, volleyball? Does that mean they won't be allowed? They are going to be allowed but with masking. We don't know."

While teachers are taking the last month of the summer holiday to prepare for the return of students in September, Etmanski and Pelich said the back-to-school plan from the province is not a plan. This leaves them with a lot of questions and no answers. 


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