July 29th, 2021

Student, NDP, say kids' mental health at stake, urge Ford to announce school plan

BRAMPTON — With less than six weeks until the first day of school for most Ontario students, NDP MPPs Sara Singh (Brampton Centre), Kevin Yarde (Brampton North) and Gurratan Singh (Brampton East), and Brampton South candidate Andria Barrett, held a virtual press conference Thursday urging the Ford government to tell families what the plan is for a safe return to in-person learning.
The MPPs and Barrett were joined by Erika Celestin, a high school student in Brampton entering Grade 11, who spoke to the mental health challenges many of her peers are facing because of the pandemic, and why a clear plan from the government is so important.
"This past year has been a struggle for many families in Brampton, and many parents have seen their kids' mental and emotional health suffer," Sara Singh, Deputy Leader for the Official Opposition, said. "Kids and parents need to know if the government has a plan to make sure this school year is uninterrupted for children and teens. They can’t take any more disruption."
The Brampton team said families in the community are especially worried in light of the fact that many schools are crowded, and resources like mental health help are already stretched thin.

Yarde said Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce's approach of "crossing their fingers and hoping as many students as possible get vaccinated isn't going to get the job done," noting, "the government should have been proactively calling every single family and helping eligible children get vaccinated before the first day of school, to ensure schools stay open safely."
Ford's 2021 budget cut $800 million from classrooms compared to last year.
"Doug Ford doesn't believe in investing in public education, and throughout the pandemic has refused to spend the money on measures to keep kids and teachers safe in the classroom, including making classes smaller, boosting testing and contact tracing in schools and improving ventilation," said Gurratan Singh.
Barrett said the Ontario NDP will continue to push the government to implements its plan for a Safe September. "The government's plan must include smaller class sizes, improved ventilation with minimum standards, extra mental health supports, curriculum adjustments, paid sick days for all parents, teachers and education workers and a strategy for vaccinating as many students as possible."
Erika Celestin, a Grade 11 student living in Brampton:
"I know many kids struggled with their mental health this year. Since everybody was stuck at home, many students were unmotivated to participate in school. Some students developed depression and anxiety. The level of procrastination increased for many students this year, which led to many students not completing their work. Some students wouldn't even show up to class as they just didn’t want to get out of bed.
Going back to school in person is important as it is good for peoples' mental health. However, as students we need reassurance - we need to know from the government what back to school will look like in September. We need to know what the plan is. Will it be safe to return? Or will we be faced with another school shutdown and have to move back to online learning? These are questions the government should be ready to answer."