The Advocate asked Trillium Lakelands District School Board four questions in an email for clarity about the board’s decision to cancel all extracurricular activities. Catherine Shedden, district manager of corporate communications, responds.
Advocate: Why is ours the only school board in the province to cancel extracurricular activities?
Shedden: We cannot speak to the decisions of other school boards. We can only respond to the decision made by TLDSB. And in TLDSB classroom programming is our priority. In TLDSB we would have to collapse classrooms and have administrators supervising large numbers of students and classes in libraries and gymnasiums which is not conducive to our priority of maintaining optimal classroom programming.
Advocate: Doesn’t this contradict the Feed All Four philosophy of TLDSB?
Shedden: We firmly believe in Feed All Four — as you know we state that it is the TLDSB way of being. However, as you’ll see in recent messaging from the director of education Larry Hope, we are not always able to be all things to all people. Currently, in this climate of labour disruption, we are presented with circumstances where we have to choose academic programming over extracurricular activities that take place during the school day which require staff supervision.
Feed All Four is also self reflective — an individual can be responsible for feeding their mind, body, spirit, and emotions each and every day. While we have asked that extracurricular activities be rescheduled to after school hours, students can still engage in physical activities — for example walking to and from school, etc.
Advocate: Why weren’t parents consulted in advance?
Shedden: Decisions based on job sanctions from the provincial union are not intended permanent. They are a temporary solution to an immediate problem. However, we are taking all the feedback from the community into consideration. Teachers no longer doing on-calls (replacing other teachers when that teacher needs to be out of the classroom) is a complex problem which includes adhering to collective agreements and recent sanctions, and the availability of supply staff. The decision to request that extracurricular activities be rescheduled to take place after the school day (for Kawartha Lakes area schools — that means after 2:30 pm) is based on the labour circumstances with which we must operate at this time.
Advocate: OSSTF notes that the board is already in a position to hire eight occasional teachers …. so why hasn’t it?
Shedden: Teachers are added to the supply list on a consistent basis, however the list is quickly depleted and is replenished in an expedient way as possible. As mentioned earlier, and in Larry (Hope’s) message, there are contractual factors affecting additions to the supply list. The list is capped by the union at 90 plus an additional 10 per cent leeway. We have recently negotiated with the union to make some changes supply list development. New additions are currently being brought on board.
It is important to note that it is entirely due to the striking of on-calls (teachers on school staff replacing teachers when absent) that we are in this predicament and have made the decision to not run extra curriculars during the school day. Every secondary teacher must provide a specific number of on-call class coverages in a school year as part of their collective agreement. And now they are not doing this, leaving schools to rely on a supply list that already (with on-calls in place) not sufficient to cover demand.