August 10th, 2020

Impossible choice: Ottawa families must decide on back-to-school under Ford’s risky scheme by Friday

NDP Leader urges Ford to replace risky scheme with smaller, safer classes

OTTAWA — NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is in Ottawa Monday to call urgently for a plan for smaller, safer classes — on the day many parents will be told they have until just Friday to decide if their kids will return to school in September under Doug Ford’s risky back-to-school scheme.

A letter from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is slated to go to parents Monday, asking them to choose in-person or remote learning for their child by Friday, Aug. 14. That’s according to a OCDSB memo sent Friday evening.

“It’s clear families want their kids to be back in school, but they are worried that sending them right back into overcrowded classrooms is too risky for the health of students, staff and the families and communities around them,” said Horwath. “Now, families are going to have to make a decision in just days on whether to send their kids into crowded classrooms, or find a way to stay home with them for months more.

“No parent should have to make this kind of impossible choice under circumstances they’re not comfortable with.”

Parents, teachers, education workers, experts and public health authorities have called for smaller, safer classes in September. Horwath was joined by concerned parents outside L'école élémentaire publique Louise-Arbour in Ottawa Monday, where she urged Ford to recognize that it’s not too late, if he hustles.

“Time is running out. We need urgent action to swap Ford’s risky, penny-pinching scheme with a funded plan for smaller, safer classrooms,” said Horwath.

“If I were premier, I’d be capping class sizes for the fall, sourcing class spaces and hiring thousands of teachers and education workers. I’d invest in better ventilation where it’s needed, and improvements like touchless faucets – an investment in keeping children healthy and stopping the spread.”


Rachel Inch, parent and educator
“My son loves being around people, and he misses walking to school with his friends. He needs the routine of school and connection with his peers, but he is scared to go back to school this fall. I get it: We have been telling him for months to distance, and now he is being told to go into a room, all day, with 28 other kids, and he is naturally uncomfortable. As a family, we have a very tough decision to make this week. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I am imploring the Premier and his Education Minister to commit to smaller class sizes in Kindergarten to Grade 8.”

Omar Burgan, parent
“Our family, like many others, struggled to balance the demands of our jobs and our kids’ education during the long shutdown of our schools. We do not want to risk everything shutting down again. Our kids and educators deserve comprehensive plans for safe schools -- plans that include better funding to hire more teachers so we can have smaller cohort class sizes.
It became clear to all parents during this pandemic that public schools are the backbone of our communities and of our entire economy. We need the government to have its priorities straight and provide all the resources our schools need to be safe and not risk being shut down.”


  • According to an Aug. 7 OCSDB memo, parents in that school board will receive a letter Aug. 10, giving them until Aug. 14 to decide on whether their kids will attend school under Doug Ford’s scheme.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • A survey conducted by the Ottawa Carleton District School Board showed that parents and students overwhelmingly want to see a full return to schools. With the board facing a $17-million deficit for the year, it asked the Ford government for funding for “personal protective equipment, additional teaching and support staff where necessary to allow safely distanced every-day in-school instruction, and improvements to facilities such as better ventilation systems, touch-free sinks and other similar renovations to minimize the transmission of infection.”
  • The backlog of necessary, but ignored school repairs reached $15.9 billion under the previous Liberal government, and have jumped to $16.5 billion under the Doug Ford government.