Special education classes in Mississauga and Brampton not safe to re-open, unions say

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Unions representing teachers in Peel Region (which includes Mississauga and Brampton) say it's not safe to re-open special education classes.

The classes are set to resume today but in a letter sent to Peel Region's Health Department the combined unions, representing more than 12,000 teachers, say the risk of spread of COVID-19 is still high.

The unions say students with special needs are often the most medically fragile and that many of the teachers have yet to receive the vaccine. They say116 teachers and dozens of special education workers are directly affected.

The letter goes on to say there are "grave concerns" with re-opening and the ability of both the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board to keep everyone safe.

Appealing directly to Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's Medical Officer of Health, the unions ask him to use his authority to keep all in-classroom teaching sessions closed.

On April 5, Dr. Loh issued what is called a Section 22 order under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act, to close all schools in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon until April 19 because the rising number of COVID-19 cases in classrooms could not be contained.

A few days later the Ontario government announced that all schools will remain closed for an indefinite period following spring break. While that order is still in effect, the Province believes the needs of special education students require in-person classroom time.

The teachers want Dr. Loh to use his authority to continue with the closure of Peel schools and allow time to monitor the health trends and adjust accordingly to combat the transmission rate.

"This cautious approach sends a clear public message that the third wave is very real, and we are not compounding the already stretched supports in Peel," the letter states.

Despite the appeal, as of this morning teachers and special needs students are expected back in the classroom.

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