When it comes to reopening, schools aren’t created equal

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Regarding the reopening of schools, is Prime Minister Doug Ford abandoning his responsibilities? When announcing the extended lockdowns in Ontario, the Premier was asked if there was a chance that schools would open in June. “I just need the union leaders to sit down with the docs and find a solution,” he replied.

Earlier, he had pointed out that he recognized the concern of parents and the position of doctors who want schools to open. Even then, he hinted that he was handing the decision to “public health doctors, teachers and union partners to agree on the best way forward.”

“We also need a consensus,” said the Prime Minister. “And we just don’t have that right now.”

Let’s follow the story here. Ford is publicly relinquishing his government’s authority to reopen the school to fruitful negotiations between “docs” and workers.

Moments later, the province’s chief medical officer of health followed up, apparently restoring some of the government’s authority over the decision. “But we’re going to have further discussions, both with our public health units, with the Department of Education to determine when is the best time, the right time. Because our schools were safe and we want them to open and stay open. “

All the back and forth over who decides whether schools can reopen this year isn’t just about who is actually responsible for that decision. It also raises the question of what Ford and Williams mean by “schools”.

The latest versions of the Guide to Reopening Ontario Schools, unlike previous versions, recognize that different types of schools exist in the province – including public, private and First Nations schools.

Ford and Williams act like they’re talking about all schools and all students.

But their desire to gain approval from teachers’ unions indicates that they are not. Organized work speaks on behalf of educators in about three out of four schools in the province. Public schools.

And the rest? The guide has been updated to recognize that First Nations schools in Ontario fall under federal jurisdiction and are therefore exempt from the guidelines. Their exemptions mean they have a lot more local freedom for decision making.

So where does that leave the rest of the schools, the other 1,450 or so independent (or private) schools? According to the Prime Minister’s logic, do doctors speak for themselves? These union leaders?

Independent schools – about half have a religious definition and almost all claim a separate approach to teaching and learning – are ready to open once stay-at-home orders are lifted.

They will bring the same spirit of cooperation with local public health that marked their posture throughout the pandemic. As immunization coverage increases and the effects of the pandemic diminish, teachers, families, councils and independent school principals stand ready to contribute to their communities by providing healthy and safe places for students to finish well. this school year.

They don’t need to wait for the blessing of the teachers’ unions.

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If discussions at the docs and union tables result in the closure of public schools, despite the lockdown being lifted, where does that leave the rest of the schools?

When will Ford make a seat at the table for everyone involved in the education landscape in Ontario? And when will he speak for the good people scattered across the province who are educating well and safely? And are you ready to take the shutters off their school buildings?

Amanda Dervaitis is Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Independent Schools and Deani Van Pelt is President of the Edvance Christian Schools Association



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