Questions, Answers, and The Post COVID School Reopening

By: Laura Steiner Editor/ Reporter

Last Wednesday, I had a chance to cover the Premier, and Education Minister as they announced additional funding for schools in Halton following a tour the Bishop Reading expansion.

They held a media availability after the announcement giving journalists a chance to ask one question, and one follow-up. I happened to go second, lining up behind my colleague from Cogeco. While I waited, I came up with two possible questions. The first about the proposed adaptive model- why continue to push it when boards, notably Halton’s were opposed to it on the grounds of safety?

My other question was about how school would look, in the sense of accommodating physical distancing. It was meant in the broadest of terms. Would the Ministry be forced to build larger schools to allow for space to physical distance? Would they have to find a way to use technology? How do you start building communities flexible enough to adapt to something like this?

I expected the answer. But I didn’t expect the bluster. I knew the moment the words left my mouth Lecce would be better to answer it than the Premier. Premier Ford admitted it; but not before trying (and failing) to get Mayor Krantz to answer it first. Krantz to his credit flipped it back to the Minister. It was a clear indication this was a question neither wanted to, nor were prepared to answer.

The next day, I got the news release revealing the back-to-school plan. I had questions about the school reopening, specifically what would happen in the case of a child testing positive. I emailed the ministry. The answer started with “The outbreak protocol is being finalized with the Solicitor General and Ministry of Health.” I understand things were moving at virtually a decision/ day on different topics, but surely at some point officials realized that there might not be a school year, and start planning for September.

There seems at least a partial abdication of responsibility on the province’s part. First in the initial guidance for the three potential plans; in person, online, or adaptive. I understand that not all sizes are going to fit all boards. But as everything has been in this pandemic, it’s up to the province to provide firmer guidelines than that for the sake of standardizing education. They could’ve said “we’re going all in on back-to-school in person, and we’ll help make it so that you can rent any empty facility in your area to make that happen.”

And a failure to listen. The province has been all about listening to the scientists, and the doctors before deciding on policy, and a course of action. One of the easiest ways to slow the spread is space people out. Yeah, it’s going to be expensive to hire more teachers. But weigh it against the added expense of a potential spike in cases, and children’s wellbeing. Isn’t it worth it?