Randall Denley: Ontario parents don't deserve school fearmongering whipped up by union politics

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In Toronto, public health officials want smaller classes. A panel of pediatric experts led by Toronto’s SickKids hospital proposed most of what is in the provincial plan. Although the group is often portrayed as insisting on physical distancing and smaller classes, the report doesn’t actually say that.

For parents looking at all these competing claims, there is really only one question: Will my child be safe? The disconcerting answer is that schools cannot be 100-percent safe. There’s a pandemic on. Even with the smaller class sizes, there would be no guarantee of safety. Keeping children from getting within two metres of each other is going to be a substantial challenge.

What parents need to do is make the kind of balanced assessment advocated by the pediatricians who wrote the SickKids’ report. Take into account the mental health and socialization benefits of having your child in school. Compare the kind of learning they will get in class to what’s offered online.

Remember that the 15-student classes that have become the rallying point for opponents to the provincial plan don’t eliminate risk, although they are likely to reduce it somewhat. No one has been able to quantify how much reduction there would be. In any case, there just isn’t enough physical space in most schools for classes that small.

Don’t give too much weight to education unions trying to whip up public fear. They’d have more credibility of they didn’t reflexively oppose just about anything government does, no matter which party is in power. Of course their members face a degree of risk, just as everyone else that works with the public does. Teachers who believe schools are unsafe can work from home, helping kids with online learning.

Let’s acknowledge that this school year is a new and challenging thing for the government, school boards, educators, parents and students. Everyone wants kids to be safe, but no one has all the answers.

Randall Denley is an Ottawa political commentator and author of the new mystery Payback, available at randalldenley.com Contact him at randalldenley1@gmail.com

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