Hon. Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
In four short weeks, Ontario’s schools are scheduled to reopen. Millions of parents across our province are anxious about how this will unfold.
Last month, I released a Back To School Plan with a series of fully-costed recommendations on starting the school year safely by reducing class sizes and securing new classrooms in community centres and other local institutions. In the days that followed, your government released a plan that differs greatly.
Since both our plans were made public, the experts have weighed-in with a clear consensus that class sizes must remain small so that students are kept physically-distant while learning. These include SickKids Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Toronto Public Health and representatives from various publicly funded schools boards, education worker unions and teachers’ federations.
In addition, tens of thousands of parents and grandparents have taken to social media and signed petitions confirming their considerable concern with the approach that you are taking.
Like you, I am a father. My daughters will be entering grades eight and four this year. I know we both feel a profound obligation to our families, and the millions of others across this province like them, to do everything possible to ensure their safety, and to set them up for success.
I implore you to immediately reconsider your plan in order to make the investment necessary to reduce class sizes before it is too late. I am a strong believer that our kids need to get back to school, but they need to do so safely.
In addition, I recommend that you take the following steps:
Convene an Education Command Table, which should include representatives from the medical community, the education system (school boards, teachers’ federations, education worker unions, parent associations and even student trustees, must all be represented), as well as each Opposition Party.
Direct the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury Board Secretariat to dedicate the funding that’s needed to cap class sizes at a maximum of 15 students.
If necessary, after consultation with the Education Command Table described above, consider a short delay to the start of the school year to ensure that we get it right. This can be done using the same regional approach that’s been used for the re-opening of our economy, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all plan may not be advisable. A short delay, where necessary, would give you the chance to ensure that Ontario’s two million students, their families and all who work in the education system are kept safe.
I have watched you respond to media questions on this issue over the last number of days. I know that the concern you have expressed for everyone impacted by the reopening of schools is genuine.
Since the outset of the pandemic, the people of our province have responded heroically. Despite difficult circumstances, we have flattened the curve and we appear to be moving in the right direction.
Now is not the time to roll the dice and simply hope that our school reopening will go smoothly. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment and I have immense confidence in the people of Ontario to rise to the occasion on behalf of our kids.
I stand ready to assist you in any way that I can on this matter.
Steven Del Duca
Leader, Ontario Liberal Party