Ottawa parents plan to protest Friday to push for personal school next year

An event is scheduled for Friday at 9 in Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West.

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Ottawa parents are holding a protest Friday to pressure the province to have measures in place to ensure elementary and high school students can go to school in person next year.

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An event is scheduled for Friday at 9 in Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West. Similar protests are planned in Toronto, Kingston and Kitchener as part of lobbying campaigns conducted by parent groups.

After more than a year of pandemic schooling, parents say they want to avoid children being moved back and forth from personal classes to learning online at home.

“Given the new COVID-19 variants of concern now circulating in Canada, parents in Ontario are very concerned that classroom learning is at risk without proper and transparent planning,” said Parents for Reopening Ontario Schools, a group started on Facebook by Ottawa parents this month.

Parents have held four conventions at Ottawa schools in the past two weeks to push the same issues. They reiterate statements from paediatricians, pediatric hospitals and public health authorities about the importance of personal learning as children lag behind academically and in their social development and suffer from an increasing number of mental health problems.

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Students have been learning at home since April 19th. Prime Minister Doug Ford said it was too risky to send them back to schools for the rest of the year because it could trigger outbreaks and jeopardize plans to gradually reopen the economy this summer. The province is also facing the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

Some parents were furious, accusing politicians of putting terraces in front of students and ignoring the promise that schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen. (Ontario restaurant terraces reopened last week along with shopping in retail stores with capacity constraints.)

Plans announced by the Ontario Education Ministry for school next fall include a continuation of cohortation where students stick to a class as much as possible to limit mixing, and the continuation of COVID-19 safety measures such as public health nurses and PPE.

High school students will be limited to taking only two classes at a time. No decision has yet been made on whether high school students can go to school in person every day or only half the time, which was the system this year.

Parents will also again next school year have the opportunity to choose full-time distance school in the home for their children.

jmiller@postmedia.com

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