With Hamilton’s two public school boards moving to an online model this week at the direction of the province, the chair of one of the entities is asking for more help.
In a letter to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) chair Dawn Danko asked for more technology funding, high-quality masks and priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We believe that for the public education system, student success must be prioritized and the well-being of students, education workers and families must be paramount,” Danko wrote.
The chair specifically asked for cash to purchase more learning devices, citing a local survey that discovered 8,000 students are in need of technology, which puts the HWDSB 2,000 pieces short.
“Trustees request additional funding for technology as the need for individual devices has grown beyond our current inventory,” Danko said.
More masks are also on the list as the chair revealed the inventory of the three-ply cloth masks delivered as part of the province’s reopening was limited.
She urged the Ford government to move education workers and student ahead of the line in regards to COVID-19 vaccinations, recommending priority access for front-line staff and students ages 12 through 17.
In the note Danko also requested the province resume tracking school cases, stating it is an “ethical responsibility” to keep guardians and front-line educators in the know.
“We recognize that Hamilton Public Health Services staff do not have the capacity to complete contact tracing, as we have in the past,” said Danko.
“However, tracking and public reporting can be achieved through adequate supply of take-home PCR test kits or rapid antigen test kits, voluntary self-reporting of probable or test-confirmed cases, and absence tracking.”
The board’s director of education Manny Figueiredo told 900 CHML’s Hamilton Today he understood why Ontario nixed that component of the fight against COVID-19 in schools, saying the effort put forth by school and public health staff was not sustainable.
“People don’t realize that behind the scenes that every time we have a confirmed case … there is a case management team that comes together and that team is the superintendent, the principal and all the cohort tracking lists that we require,” Figueiredo said.
Hamilton’s two public school boards rolled out remote learning on Wednesday, making the pivot just days after the Ontario government issued several new COVID-19 public health measures, including moving schools online.
All publicly funded and private schools in Ontario are in remote learning until at least Jan. 17, subject to public health trends.