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Does Stephen Lecce Understand What 'Robust Protocols' Are For Schools?

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What Are These Protocols?

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Lecce Strikes Again

“And more importantly, based on the new protocols, the stronger, stricter protocols put in place, to make sure that when we reopen, all kids can be safe in this province.”

This from Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 as he was speaking about when schools can reopen in Ontario, Canada. While there are many schools throughout the province that have reopened, there are still a handful that have not, and schools in my area are one of them.

Now, I have been an advocate for the reopening of schools. I understand the risks associated with the reopening - thanks once again, COVID, you rotten presence in all our lives - and I also understand that each person's circumstance is different. I understand that there are many people out there who have elderly or immunocompromised individuals in their lives that they want to keep safe, and I totally understand and appreciate that. I firmly believe, however, that there is a mental health crisis brewing at all age levels as a result of the lockdowns that have really taken their toll on many individuals.

However, I question Stephen Lecce's unwavering belief that the protocols for life in school are somehow stronger and stricter simply because he says they are.

I work in a school. I've made that clear in previous blog posts. I have two children who are in upper elementary and in high school. I have yet to see anything stronger than the mandate that we take a COVID self-assessment that's provided on a government website and that we mask and wear our safety shields or goggles. There have been several colleagues throughout Ontario who have said much the same thing, and when pressed, Lecce keeps insisting that protocols are somehow magically stronger now than they were in September 2020 when we returned to school.

There is no social distancing. Sure, I know that schools in what have been termed "hot spots" have been supposedly capped at 15 students, but I don't work in a region that's been deemed a hot spot, and I and (other colleagues) will be facing up to 30 or 34 students when the new quadmester begins tomorrow. Have you ever tried putting 30 or 34 students in a class and tried to keep 2 meters between them? It doesn't happen. So, that safety protocol is out the window.

Outside of safety shields and face masks and squirts of sanitizer, there have not been any sort of "stricter" protocols introduced at our schools. Lecce talks about asymptomatic testing, but few schools have seen them, and there have reportedly been nurses hired, but they're sort of like unicorns - they're magical, wonderful creatures, but hardly anyone has seen them.

The fact of the matter is, Stephen Lecce keeps saying certain things are so, but in reality, not much has changed from September. Meanwhile, there are parents, educators and students who are continuing to question how those who go into the school building are going to be kept safe, particularly when it comes to the new variants that have made their presence known in the province lately.

What this comes down to is more empty promises from the education minister who should, by rights, have the best interests of the school populations at heart. He is a privately educated man who doesn't even have any sort of experience in the world of public education, and yet, he is the one calling the shots about what happens in Ontario's education system. He's openly denigrated teachers, claims regularly that he's got the best interests of students in mind, and yet every decision he's made has gone against the very people he claims to support.

I realize we're in a pandemic situation and that we're learning as we go. We make mistakes, and I certainly would not want to be in any position of leadership during this crisis. As it is, when you're in a political realm, every decision you make or don't make is questioned. Now, due to the pandemic, every decision everyone in charge makes is under the microscope, and it's not an easy position to be in for sure.

However, you can't state that there are stricter protocols in place when, in reality, there's very little that really seems to have changed. Lecce is continuing to tell the public what he thinks they want to hear rather than the truth. If there are stricter protocols, he needs to be clear on what those are so that we are all clear on what they are. If they haven't changed, at least be straight about it.

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