‘We are going to experience a horrific fall’: Waterloo region teachers’ unions alarmed before return to classrooms
Unions representing teachers in the Waterloo region are worried about students returning to school in September.
“We’re going to have a horrible fall and a horrible winter because we’re absolutely unprepared for what’s to come,” said Patrick Etmanski of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, Waterloo region.
Waterloo region school boards plan to reintroduce regular recess, shared spaces, sports and school buses to full capacity in less than two weeks.
“Many of our members have voiced their concerns,” said Jeff Pelich, vice-president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Region of Waterloo. “The plan relaxed things far too soon. We are at the start of another wave. “
The unions said the blame lies with the province and not the school boards, adding that they lobbied the government for smaller class sizes before the pandemic and said it would be even more helpful now.
“It’s a huge investment and they are not ready to make it,” Etmanski said.
Earlier this month, the government assured schools would close with a pivot to distance learning if the pandemic worsens.
Some parents hope it doesn’t come to this, and many choose to stay positive.
“I hope it stays open,” said one parent.
“I think they are very anxious to go back to school,” said another parent.
During the COVID-19 community update, Waterloo Region Public Health appeared confident that local school boards were doing their best to keep students and staff safe.
“School boards have worked hard to ensure that they meet all the requirements of the ministry guidelines,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Waterloo Region Medical Officer of Health.
School boards have implemented improved ventilation in classrooms.
“All of our schools now have mechanical / AC ventilation (except one due to construction) and HEPA filters have been installed in all kindergarten classrooms and UV units in every classroom on the board.” said Loretta Notten, Director of Education with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. “We are very happy with our ventilation readiness. “
The public school board said it was doing the same, with improved ventilation in many classrooms to promote sufficient air circulation in the classrooms.
“All of our kindergarten classrooms and portable devices are mechanically ventilated, and for the 2021/2022 school year all kindergarten classrooms will be equipped with a portable HEPA filter,” said Laura Booth of WRDSB.
Meanwhile, public health insists on the importance of getting vaccinated.
Mobile vaccine buses will be rolling out to local malls and malls in the coming days.
Plans to make vaccines more accessible to students could go further.
“I think there is very likely potential for school vaccination,” said Vickie Murray of the Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
When it comes to COVID-19 testing, there were long lines with wait times of up to two hours after resuming the last school year.
Public Health said Ontario implemented changes last fall to help. Officials believed the changes helped resolve these issues.
“Prior to these changes, anyone in Ontario was eligible for testing at any time,” said Kerri Hutchinson of Waterloo Region Public Health.