Elementary and Secondary Staff Concerned About Return to Class

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Public elementary and secondary school staff aren't in agreement with a recent move by the Greater Essex County District School Board.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation District 9 President Erin Roy says the board decided to have staff and special education students return to in-class learning Monday.

Roy says the decision was dictated to both unions without consultation, in contrast to a Dec. 23 memo from the Ministry of Education.

"The ministry memo does outline that it should be in consultation with labour partners and allows the school board to make decisions based on what's happening in the community," she added.

In a joint statement with the Greater Essex Elementary Federation of Ontario, Roy says the board didn't consult with anyone before making the decision.

"Unfortunately the board called us and informed us that they already made those decisions to send our self-contained special education students back to face to face instruction on Jan. 4," she says. "We raised some concerns about that because of our local COVID-19 numbers."

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Roy says members on both the elementary and secondary level are concerned about safety.

"There's some fear about returning face to face with students, especially because they're medically fragile and most cases they're special needs," she says. "Many of them don't have the ability to wear a mask, knowing the numbers in our community; I've been fielding a lot of phone calls since the memo went out."

According to the board's website, "they are required to provide in-person support for students with complex special education needs, especially when accommodations cannot be met during remote learning."

Roy hopes the board will now consult both federations as the Ministry of Education had directed in its memo heading into the Christmas break.

Remote learning for students at the elementary students continues from Jan. 4-8, with secondary students working online from Jan. 4-22.