MUSKOKA, ON-The various Ontario teacher unions are voicing their concerns about the safety of returning to school in September. 

Local representatives from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association all noted that they would like to see increased physical distancing in classes when students return.     

Karen Bratina from the ETFO told MyMuskokaNow their concerns here are the same across the province, in which schools are supposed to be a safe place for both students and teachers.

They feel the current plan is inadequate.

“This does not allow for two-metre distancing, and it doesn’t allow for mandatory masks in grades K to three.”

Bratina said her plan is to keep working with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board to ensure the policy they have enforced allows for a safe environment.

“We have to work with what we have, and I am certainly not going to stall that process just because we don’t agree with the government.”

Colin Matthew from the OSSTF notes their biggest concern is the safety of both the students and the teachers.

He expects school boards to be given the tools they require to allow for a safe return. 

“We would like to see adequate infection control provided to ensure that educators are not infected by students and vice versa,” said Matthew.

Matthew referenced that would the union would like to see masking and physical distancing when they return, and as it stands right now, he is anticipating full classrooms of up to 35 students.   

Meanwhile, Kent MacDonald from OECTA adds one of their concerns was the use of portable teaching electronics being brought into the classroom from the outside that could potentially lead to an infection.  

He says he’s been talking with teachers and finds they are feeling unsure as to how the year is going to go.

MacDonald notes some teachers have preexisting health conditions, concerns or they live with someone with those concerns.

He feels it will be easier to deal with as the union is aware of the potential risks associated with preexisting medical conditions.

For those who are dealing with the anxiety of returning, MacDonald says it is really difficult to comfort them as so many things are still unknown.           

For more information about how the school boards are planning to outline this coming school year, visit their websites.