Unions representing teachers and other education workers in Ontario say their members should have received rapid COVID-19 tests to use over the holidays along with students.
A joint statement on the matter was issued by Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) earlier this month.
While school boards are providing students with rapid tests to use over the holidays, teachers and education workers have been excluded from this important preventative health and safety measure, said the statement.
“By failing to provide these tests to educational staff, teachers and education workers have once again been pushed to the end of the line when it comes to safety precautions in their workplaces,” the statement said.
It is known that the majority of COVID-19 infection spread is from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals, and proactive rapid testing is an effective method of detecting those cases, said the unions.
“To successfully combat COVID-19, everyone in all school environments should have equal access to rapid tests,” said the press release.
“It is the responsibility of school boards and the provincial government to facilitate all COVID-19 prevention efforts to ensure test availability, including rapid testing.”
Cases of COVID-19 are currently rising in Ontario and are projected to continue to rise after the holidays.
The unions said in a press release issued earlier this month that government should immediately provide tests to all school staff and move beyond its current in-school rapid testing pilot project to fund regular asymptomatic testing in schools across the province.
“Since the pandemic began, education unions have been calling for a robust testing and tracing system,” said the press release.
“Such a program must also be accompanied by other measures called for by education and public health experts, including smaller class sizes to increase physical distancing, improved ventilation, masking for all staff and students, and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff.”