Yesterday in Ontario we got some big news about the state of our fight against COVID and one part in particular; schools. Schools in most of the province have been closed for at least two months, while they’ve been closed longer in hot spots. That’s lead to a lot of extra stress for students, teachers, administrators and parents. That’s lead so many to wonder when schools would return in person, a legit question to ask given that right now Ontario is the province in the country where kids aren’t doing school in-person.
So when it was announced yesterday by the Ford Conservatives that they were not going to reopen schools before September, understandably lots of people weren’t happy. Personally, I think that a decision to keep schools closed until September could have been defendable, especially with a Premier who has shown a willingness to thumb his nose at the risks of COVID at many points through out this crisis.
Yet somehow Doug Ford managed to find a way to make what could be argued was the right decision, and made a complete hash of it all by himself. Sure his theatrical exercise of writing everyone under the sun asking for consensus, only to ignore it when he got it was bad enough, but that wasn’t what pushed me too far. Nope, it was this last little nugget that Ford just threw into the mix that left me shaking my head in disbelief:
Okay folks, let me get this straight. Doug Ford is arguing that it’s safer for kids to stay at home for now and if kids go back to in-class learning, it could lead to a spike in cases (which is a reasonable position), despite the fact that he spent the last year saying that having schools open didn’t lead to more cases in the community and that schools were/are totally safe. Hmmm, that’s a total contradiction, but it’s not a new one. It’s just basically admitting he was BSing us for a year. But again, that’s almost par for the course with this government.
But on top of all of that, on top of saying that bringing kids into schools could create a spike in cases, Ford wants all schools in the province to hold graduations for every single student in the province? He wants to bring all these kids, their parents and loved ones together in a mass event? Yes, outdoors is safer but the current public health rules put a cap on the size of outdoor gatherings at what, 10? Even if you lower those restrictions, there will still be limits on the number of people you can have at an outdoor gathering and given that any graduation for a class of about 25 kids, you’ll be starting at about 75 people attending. That would blow away whatever restrictions would still be in place at that time. And yeah, you’re going to replicate that over a dozen times, over a few days (if the weather cooperates)?
Oh, and don’t forget the fact in a regular school year, only a small minority of students have a graduation ceremony. Depending on the school, you typically have a “graduation” ceremony for kids who are graduating out of the school, and some do it for kindergarten too. So you’re going to take something that might involve two or three classes in a school, and create ceremonies for every single student? And you’re choosing to do it during the middle of a global pandemic? Predictably, the response from folks in the education sector has been telling about how well thought out this all was:
“Given no notice”… “Surprised”…. “Simply not possible or practical”. That last one came from the Ontario Principals Council, which was a surprisingly blunt and stark comment coming from them. As they pointed out, schools have already been planning for virtual contingencies, including ““drive throughs,” virtually recorded sessions or other events that do not involve large social gatherings”. That’s because in the best of times, graduation ceremonies take a lot of planning and time. They just don’t happen on their own at the snap of a finger or with a quip in a press conference. So asking schools to scrap those plans, re-plan to do massive in-person events with next to no time to make it happen, and with no funding to cover that extra cost (because arranging a massive outdoor event will cost big money), is just not unrealistic, it’s just straight out disrespectful of Ford and Co.
Seriously, if I’m being extremely generous, I could say that his heart may have been in the right place on this. But wow, his head was firmly up something else. Pulling this crap-covered rabbit out of his hat, when making one of the hardest decisions his government had to make in a while, didn’t help one bit. In fact, it just made it worse. No matter what they decided on the schools, there were going to be a lot of upset people. If this was some kind of way to try to lessen that pain, it totally failed. Not only did it completely undercut the rationale for keeping schools closed in the first place (you know, protecting public health), it just opened more legit questions about his decision-making process. Simply put, it made no damned sense. None.
At this point, it seems that Doug Ford can’t get out of his own way when it comes to these things. It just keeps happening and that’s really no one else’s fault but his own. There’s no one else he can blame for just throwing something like this out there, making a difficult decision for many to accept even worse. It’s those kinds of things that push people to vote governments out, those are the things that really gnaw at people’s sense of right and wrong. While you could argue that keeping schools closed was the right call, adding this whole graduation gambit just added fuel to those who disagreed with the decision. It makes this government look unserious, unwilling to follow expert advice (even after making such a scene of asking for it) and unable to government. Those are impressions that don’t leave peoples minds, and that’s all of Ford’s own doing.