Some teachers refuse to work at Mississauga school due to concerns about COVID-19 safety

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Some educators received support from the Peel arm of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF District 19) for refusing to work at a secondary school in Mississauga due to concerns about COVID-19 safety protocols. 

On Feb. 17, OSSTF District 19, a union that represents teachers, occasional teachers, and other Peel District School Board (PDSB) employees, announced that it was supporting some teachers who had “initiated a legal work refusal due to the lack of enhanced safety measures in place” at John Fraser Secondary School.

Schools in Peel (Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon) reopened for in-class instruction on Feb. 17 (snow delayed the planned Feb. 16 reopening). 

The PDSB said that when it became aware of the work refusal, it contacted the Ministry of Labour to ask for further investigation. 

The board said the Ministry ultimately ruled that schools are safe for in-person learning. 

After their review and investigation, the Ministry of Labour found that the objection does not meet the criteria of a work refusal. As such, the work environment continues to be regarded as safe and these staff are expected to return to work tomorrow,” Ryan Strang, Communications Officer, PDSB, said in an email to insauga.com.

While many experts have raised the alarm over new variants of COVID-19 that are thought to be more transmissable, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, has expressed support for the resumption of in-person learning. 

My support for school reopening was based on current transmission patterns that suggest the benefit of having children back in class for their learning, their socialization, their well-being and development currently outweighs the risks of COVID-19, which can be further mitigated through the precautionary measures that are being put in place,” Loh told reporters at a Feb. 10 press conference.

According to the PDSB’s website, masking is now required for all students (including those in kindergarten) at all times (including when outdoors). The website also says that secondary school staff and students are being actively screened for COVID-19 symptoms daily. 

Pop-up testing has also been offered at some Peel schools. 

The school has been following and continues to follow all Peel District School Board health and safety protocols put in place under the direction of Peel Public Health (PPH) and the Ministry of Education,” Strang says.

Currently, there are no active cases of COVID-19 at the school and no outbreaks have been declared by PPH during the 2020-21 school year.” 

Cover photo courtesy of the OSSTF District 19

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