August 12th, 2020

Crumbling classrooms often not ventilated well enough for big class sizes

NDP in Peterborough to call for smaller, safer classes in September

PETERBOROUGH — As Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board’s plan for the fall heads to a review by trustees tonight, Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says many classrooms all over the province simply aren’t ventilated well enough to have big classes crammed into them during the COVID-19 pandemic — making smaller class sizes even more urgent.

There are at least $16.3 billion in necessary repairs to Ontario’s schools going ignored. That includes windows that don’t open, and ventilation and air systems that need to be updated.

“Everyone wants kids back in school five days a week, but we want it done safely — safely for students, for teachers and for education workers,” said Horwath. “Poor air circulation makes it even more dangerous to put kids in large, crowded classrooms – but suggesting that parents can keep their kids at home for any longer simply isn’t an option for many.”

Students, parents, teachers and education workers are refusing to settle for Ford’s risky back-to-school scheme, even as he digs in his heels. Some of them joined Horwath Wednesday in Peterborough, at 108-year-old Queen Mary Public School, to speak out about their concerns. Lisa Noble, who teaches Grade 7 at Crestwood Secondary School, is worried about going back to status quo class sizes for several reasons, including poor ventilation.

“Families in Peterborough deserve so much better than a scheme that pinches pennies on the backs of their kids,” said Horwath. “Time is running out – but it’s not too late. I am urging the Ford government to immediately get to work hiring more staff, securing more space for classes, and ensuring good ventilation in every classroom, so we can send all kids back to school safely in September.”


Lisa Noble, Parent and Elementary Teacher
“I teach Grade 7 and my son is entering Grade 12. Both of us are preparing to return to school in September, and my concerns as a teacher are the same as my parent concerns. How is it possible to safely distance 30 adolescent bodies in a poorly ventilated, concrete rectangle, while still providing a meaningful learning experience for the students in that space? Moving to recommended smaller cohorts would not only allow teachers and students to be safer, but would allow teachers to better support the individual academic needs of their students, as well as their mental and emotional health.”

Heather Ray, Parent
“My kids and I are enjoying our time together at home, but my work and their social health and education is on the edge of collapse. I am glad that my kids will be able to go back to school, but we are all anxious.

As many are making the difficult choice of whether or not to send their kids back to school, I, like many others, simply have no choice. The current ‘opt out’ alternative offered to parents is not accessible to me, as I have no financial options but to work full-time and do not have the means to provide the special needs required for my daughter’s education. I urge our current government to not hide behind opt-out options, to offer the resources needed for students and staff to be safe, and to commit to smaller class sizes.”

Angela Caban, Parent and Custodian
“As a custodian, I am concerned about whether we will have the resources and staff to keep up with the extra cleaning required to maintain safe and well-sanitized schools. As a parent of five children, three in elementary school, we are very concerned about our children returning to school this fall. Our children are as well! Having full class sizes goes against everything we have been telling our children for months about social/physical distancing. We need a commitment of smaller class sizes to keep our families safe.”


  • The Ford government is in the process of cutting thousands of teacher and education worker positions, and hiking class sizes over the course of several years.
  • The Ford government’s back-to-school plan sends all elementary and many high school students back into full-sized classes. High school students in designated boards will be at home on their own 50 per cent of the time, doing “independent work.” Peterborough’s school boards are not designated – so high school students will return to crowded classrooms.
  • The Ford government's total funding for additional staff during the pandemic recovery period is just $16,000 per school, an amount that doesn't even cover a single part-time staff member.
  • The backlog of necessary, but ignored school repairs reached $15.9 billion under the previous Liberal government, and have jumped to at least $16.3 billion under the Doug Ford government.
  • Crestwood Secondary School is 50 years old and has a Facility Condition Index of 52.7 per cent — meaning that for every $1 the school is worth, it needs 52 cents in necessary repairs.
  • Queen Mary Public School is 108 years old and has a Facility Condition Index of 58.12 per cent — meaning that for every $1 the school is worth, it needs 58 cents in necessary repairs. Projections also suggest the school is on track to exceed its capacity by around 20 students this year.