Director of Education Larry Hope says his board has made a decision to cancel all extracurricular activities, blaming strike action — and TLDSB may be the only board in Ontario to do so.
But the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) led locally here in district 15 by Colin Matthew, says Trillium Lakeland District School Board’s actions do not make sense.
The board is claiming it doesn’t have sufficient secondary supply teachers to provide adequate coverage for teacher absences. For this reason, if a teacher is absent, extracurricular activities such as sporting events and field trips, will be cancelled on the day the teacher is away.
“There was passionate feedback from parents and students at the board meeting questioning why TLDSB was the only school board in the province to take this stance,” says Matthew in a press release.
“None of OSSTF’s sanctions target extra-curricular activities or field trips,” he points out. “At this time OSSTF members remain committed to voluntary extra-curricular activities and field trips…”
Hope, writing in a prepared statement on the board’s website, says they “did not take this decision lightly and are aware that this is not an ideal situation.”
“It is important to note, however, that our decision was made with the goal of protecting classroom programming to the fullest extent possible. For us, this means we want to make use of the limited number of secondary supply teachers to support classroom programming first and foremost,” he writes.
The director says the collective agreement the board has with OSSTF speaks to only allowing a certain number of occasional teachers to be included on the roster.
“We have been asked why we don’t simply hire more occasional teachers. The answer is quite simple in that we take honouring collective agreements with our union partners very seriously,” Hope writes.
That doesn’t make sense to Matthew.
Matthew says the number of occasional (supply) teachers on TLDSB’s list is indeed limited in the collective agreement between OSSTF and TLDSB, in order to ensure that there is both adequate availability of occasional teachers and adequate work for those teachers.
But “with respect to that collective agreement the school board is in a position to immediately hire eight occasional teachers should they choose,” says Matthew.
“No idea why they haven’t,” he tells the Advocate.
The Advocate sought clarification on this from the board but did not hear back from them by press time.
Miya Bradburn, a parent who attended the public meeting last night, calls it a “horrible step” by the board to cancel extracurricular activities.
“I feel it was also very sneaky. No consultation was done with parents to see if they’d be okay with the other options other boards are taking to account for supply teacher shortages,” Bradburn says.
She notes other boards are having administration staff supervise students in some cases, when necessary, to avoid this step being taken.
“Our board says their priority is to preserve academic programming,” says Bradburn, but the parents there know that extracurriculars are essential for the well-being of many students.”
She says she even believes parents wouldn’t begrudge a cancelled class or two if it meant students who rely on extracurriculars to “feed all four” and be mentally well could do so.
Hope writes that he hopes the current labour disputes can reach a resolution. He closes with students “deserve a well-rounded school experience and a quality extra-curricular program.”