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School unions question Ford government's COVID-related hiring data

Last Updated Feb 6, 2021 at 11:22 pm EST

Almost 700,000 Ontario students will return to in-class learning on Monday as schools across the province gradually reopen.

In advance of their return, the Ministry of Education has revealed how much hiring has been done across all provincial school boards. A spokesperson says around 3,400 new teachers, 1,400 custodians and 620 public health nurses have been hired as part of the government’s commitment to curb the spread of COVID-19 and reduce class sizes.

Union officials, however, are questioning the Ford government’s claims they’ve invested COVID-related funds into those hirings. Laura Walton, the president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, says the new hires have yet to be seen by frontline staff.

Walton says when they tried to get more details on the hiring data through a Freedom of Information request back in December, they were denied with the Ministry citing “cabinet secrecy”.

“I’m not sure why it is so difficult to provide to us exactly board-by-board how many people have been hired,” said Walton.

“This is a government that talked about transparency and being for the people. And being for the people means not keeping secrets from them. If something so simple as how many custodians have actually been hired cannot be shared, it really begs the question what else don’t they know.”

Schools in Durham, Halton and Hamilton are among those set to reopen starting next week while schools in Toronto, Peel and York will remain closed at least until Feb. 15.