Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, in an open letter to Ford Monday, said child health experts, educators and tens of thousands of parents and grandparents have raised concerns about the number of students that will be in the province’s classrooms this fall.
Del Duca is calling for the government to invest additional resources to ensure smaller class sizes, and argued a short delay in the start of the school year to allow for this investment would be preferable to overcrowding.
“Now is not the time to roll the dice and simply hope that our school reopening will go smoothly,” Del Duca said.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government is already spending more per student than any other jurisdiction in the country.
Ontario has the most comprehensive masking policy and testing regime for asymptomatic secondary students, he said.
Premier Doug Ford defended his government’s back-to-school plan even as opposition leaders pushed for smaller class sizes during a pandemic.
“To say I’m confident no one’s going to catch the virus is just not realistic with 2 million people going back into the system,160,000 teachers, but I do believe we have the best plan in the entire country,” Ford said Monday.
“Everyone wants smaller classes or classrooms, including myself. I fully understand, but … I’m not going to be putting kids in strip malls or industrial buildings, that’s for sure.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath — in Ottawa Monday to discuss this issue — countered the Ford government has left parents with an impossible choice.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), for example, expects parents to chose by this Friday the option of in-person or remote learning for their child, she said.
“Now, families are going to have to make a decision in just days on whether to send their kids into crowded classrooms or find a way to stay home with them for months more,” Horwath said in a statement.