OSSTF District 9 President Calling Back to School Plan 'Nothing Surprising'

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"Nothing surprising."

That's how the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation District 9 is describing the Ontario government's back to school plan for September.

Erin Roy says much of what was announced was what teachers' unions were already planning for when the school year wrapped up in June.

Elementary and secondary students will attend school in-person five days a week and masks will be mandatory for all students between Grade 1 and Grade 12, but won't be required outdoors or during sporting events.

Roy believes no masks during sports could be problematic.

"As with most things with this government, sometimes it seems like a grand experiment all the time," says Roy.  "I'm hoping with the vaccination rates, if anybody hasn't got their vaccine, please go out and get it because I do believe that that's the way out of this pandemic. Obviously, the one variable is the Delta variant and if the Delta variant takes hold then I could see us pivoting backwards which nobody wants."

She says extracurricular activities can resume, but some teachers might be hesitant to take part.

"Extracurriculars are a voluntary activity and if there's hesitancy from the staff it may be because of COVID, but it could also just be that their workload has been increased," she says.  "We're going to have to see what we can and can't do. It's a little bit vague when they talk about extracurriculars because they say there will be restrictions, but they don't say what they will be."

Roy feels there are many unanswered questions.

"There's all these questions that they don't necessarily have answers for like, as an example, not having an outbreak plan ready," says Roy.  "Apparently that's to come, but school is less than a month away for staff and students will resume September 7. It would be good to have all those questions answered up front."

Remote learning will remain an option for those who don't feel comfortable returning to the classroom. 

The Ontario government says plans on how schools will deal with outbreaks and unvaccinated children will be released in the near future.