Approximately 20 people showed up for a rally at Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin’s office in the city’s south end today to show their displeasure at what they see as a lack of a school reopening plan.
The Ontario Parent Action Network hosted rallies at MPP offices across the province Wednesday to allow families to share their concerns about school reopenings with their local representative at Queen’s Park.
Khanjin’s office was closed, but that didn’t stop protesters from taping signs expressing their displeasure to the building’s windows.
Local teacher Pekka Reinio told BarrieToday that he and the others on hand were simply concerned about how schools will look come reopening in the fall.
“Everybody wants to have a safe opening of schools in September and to have our children back in the classroom, but only if it can be done safely,” said Reinio, who helped organize the rally. “We do not want our schools to be the next epicentre of a COVID outbreak in Ontario.”
With schools historically beginning the first week of September, Reinio believes there isn’t much time to act and have a solid plan in place.
“We are only four weeks out from schools opening and we need to get things in place and time is running short,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t have much confidence in the Conservatives to open schools safely.”
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) bargaining unit president Jen Hare said there has been a back-and-forth discussion with the government. She just really wants to see a plan.
“The really upsetting thing about this is that every time our board makes a plan, there comes a new announcement, something else that changes the original thought,” said Hare, who’s also a teacher at Eastview Secondary School in Barrie.
“The board is still waiting and there are three tentative plans they’re ready to disclose, but even that to me seems crazy,” she added. “The board has three plans that hopefully meet the government’s changing expectations.”
Hare says it is important for everyone to get back to how it was before the pandemic, but with that comes a cost to ensure everyone is safe.
“Educators, just like parents and kids, want to go back because we all want some normalcy,” she told BarrieToday at the rally. “The thing that we need is the funding to make sure that it is safe. We need spacing, we need more teachers, and we need all the safety precautions that cost money.”
“When I speak to parents, I hear that they want their children in class five days a week,” she said. “We are a government that listens to parents and we believe that students can only return to school if it is safe to do so.
“The minister of education, Stephen Lecce, is continuing to work closely with medical and scientific experts to implement protocols and resources that ensure our schools are safe,” Khanjin added.
“The government will be announcing further support for our school boards, on top of record increases in funding to support mental health, special education, and technology,” Khanjin said.
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Barrie, School, Andrea Khanjin, MPP, Ontario
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