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The Alliance calls for a #SafeSeptember
At the Alliance for Healthier Communities, we are at the forefront of community-driven approaches for health equity in Ontario. Our Community Health Centres and other front line organizations are led by and work on behalf of Black, Indigenous, racialized and low income communities whose exclusion on the basis of occupation, geography, race or poverty has forced upon many of them the highest rates and risks of COVID-19 in the province.
We have questions about a #SafeSeptember.
This week, parents and caregivers in many of these communities will be asked again whether they plan to enrol their children in person or online. But for most this is not a real choice. Without decent work, paid sick days, adequate spaces and supports for online learning, appropriate class sizes, province-wide mask policies for all grade levels, safe ventilation and sanitation facilities or clear guidance on the policies for school-related exposures or symptoms, it is an impossible choice.
We are pleased to see the federal government commit $2 billion toward safer school reopening across the country. Here are our questions for Premier Doug Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams about how they plan to spend it in the communities we serve in Ontario; the communities who need it most:
- Will you mandate smaller class sizes to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk?
- Will you invest in school boards that have mortgaged their future by being forced to spend current reserves on COVID-19-related facilities, staffing and space?
- Will you increase provincially-mandated paid sick days to allow parents and caregivers to meet required periods of isolation when their children are symptomatic or exposed to COVID-19?
- Will you empower educators and communities to ensure equitable remote learning strategies such as access to spaces, supports and connections for online learners including children at home during limited periods of COVID-19-exposure or symptom-related isolation?
- Will you commit to clear policies and clear communications, and enrol trusted local peers to communicate in appropriate ways?
- Are you prepared to further postpone school openings until comprehensive strategies are in place?