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What options are parents considering?

in Back to School 2020/Education by

Back-to-school decisions have never been as complex as the ones facing parents and guardians this fall.

With no vaccine and concern about a second wave of the pandemic arriving in late fall, parents spent much of the summer agonizing about whether to send their children back to school, enrol them in e-learning or home-school them this year.

Since Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce made their announcements on schools reopening, social media have been ablaze with parents of school-aged children asking for advice from other parents who are facing the same circumstances.

One common topic is the concept of “podding,” where a group of parents combine financial resources to hire a teacher to instruct their similarly-aged children either in person or online, at least for the fall and early winter. The teacher provides the expertise the parents don’t have, the cost is shared across several families, children are no longer being isolated in their family group, and the parents can wait out the growing pains that regular schools will experience in dealing with COVID-19.

Depending upon the size of the pod and the number of children involved, the costs would likely be in the range of $50-$100 a week per family.

Most local families, of course, cannot afford podding.

Three parents of multiple children agreed to be interviewed anonymously for this article. They all agreed that they had very few choices for the fall beyond sending their children back to school and hoping that the province and local schoolboards can keep their children safe.

“The Catholic board seems to be playing catch-up,” one parent observed. “Communication has been terrible, and rumours become Facebook facts when the board is silent. I have heard that our board is allowing cottagers to enroll their children locally rather than return to their urban homes. I have phoned the board office to find out if that is true and gotten no satisfaction,” she continued.

“I don’t have the competency to help my kids as they enter high school,” a second parent admitted, “and our internet is just not good enough to sustain the two of us working from home and our kids trying to do their schooling from home. I am terrified, as are my girlfriends.”

“I think Dougie (Premier Doug Ford) has gone for cheap rather than safe,” said a third parent, “but families like ours don’t have the choices that some do. One thing though, they won’t be riding the bus. Fifty kids on a bus … those are mobile petri dishes. I will drive them and pick them up.”

Most schools re-opening in the fall: TLDSB to announce more details soon

in Education/Health by
Where is our local voice? School board should speak out about Ford’s classroom plans
Students will be cohorted into small learning groups to reduce contacts with others.

Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced in Whitby today the re-opening of most Ontario schools for a five day a week, five hour a day of regular learning commencing Sept. 8.

The event, held at a Catholic secondary school, was a who’s who of the provincial Conservative Party with local MPP Laurie Scott joining in for the announcement. Durham Catholic trustees were invited and were in attendance, but no teaching staff or support staff were present for this crucial announcement.

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Ford government moving to privatize health care, reader says

in Letters to the Editor by

I am beyond disgusted at the Ford government. Premier Doug Ford is moving ahead with Bill 175, which seeks to privatize home health care — even as he cries crocodile tears over the horrible conditions at long-term care homes.

As citizens of this country, we have worked, paid taxes (through which politicians get paid) and contributed to the economy by buying foods, electronics and all of the  commercial products from corporations that maintain their success — and profits — from our money.

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Men can learn by listening

in Opinion by

I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by strong women, many of whom — for the time — had non-traditional roles. I remember it being a point of pride that my mother was the first woman hired to perform what was then defined as a “man’s job” (pot-washer) at our local hospital back in the late 1970s.

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Where is our local voice? School board should speak out about Ford’s classroom plans

in Education/Opinion by
Where is our local voice? School board should speak out about Ford’s classroom plans

These are tumultuous times in education in Ontario. Regular strike action from educators these past few months is drawing attention to the Conservative government’s plans for education, which involve larger class sizes, e-learning without clear regard for planning and internet infrastructure, and a suggested pay raise for educators far below inflation.

Education workers don’t much like the government’s plan; neither, apparently do parents.

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Scott calls union strike action ‘unacceptable:’ OSSTF says cuts are a worse disruption

in Education/Provincial by
Local union leader says plenty of supply teachers; no need to abruptly cancel extracurriculars
One-day strike commenced today in front of MPP Laurie Scott's office, as well as all area schools. Photo: Joli Scheidler-Benns.

Calling today’s strike action “unacceptable,” MPP Laurie Scott says it’s families who are affected most in their struggle to find childcare.

“While parents are understandably frustrated by teacher union escalation every few years, it is unacceptable that union leaders would ramp up strike action and make families across the province scramble for childcare,” she tells the Advocate in an email.

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Benns’ Belief: Conservatives and basic income

in Opinion/Social Issues by
Hugh Segal, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

For many years I have argued for the need for a well-planned basic income guarantee. For ought not the citizens of a country have a fair claim to a small dividend of the society we have all helped to create?

I have spoken with politicians of all political stripes on this matter over the past few years, including three high-profile federal Conservatives. These three Tories — all of whom were connected to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s governments — were at least open to trying basic income pilots.

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Teachers: For the people

in Opinion by
ETFO votes overwhelmingly for strike action if necessary

In the mid 1990s, while working at a newspaper as a young scribe, I wrote what I thought was a great story about a teacher who was taking a sabbatical. He was going to visit an overseas country and increase his learning and experience. He would inevitably accumulate new wisdom to bring back to future students one day.

Except that particular story never ran. I was told to get the ‘real’ story. How much was this going to cost? What sort of burden would this be to ‘taxpayers?’ The headline was altered, the focus shifted. In the end, the teacher and board of education were meant to feel shame for allowing such a thing to happen. I was embarrassed to see my name on that byline.

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Protesters in Lindsay against Ford cuts part of 25-city strike

in Provincial by
Attendees are concerned with the extensive list of cuts to education, health and the environment. Photo: Tracey Mechefske.

A small but determined group of concerned citizens braved the cold and very wet weather yesterday and gathered at MPP Laurie Scott’s constituency office to protest the litany of cuts to public funding by the Ford government.

The event in Lindsay was part of a 25 city ‘General Strike’, which grew out of an effort by a Hamilton woman to host an event in that city. Of the 35-40 people who showed up about 18 were from Haliburton County.

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Board losing millions in funding; Director of education says ‘change is upon us’

in Education/Provincial by
Board losing millions in funding; Director of education says ‘change is upon us’
Director of Education Larry Hope for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.

The widespread cuts to education by the PC government will mean millions of dollars will be lost to the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. However, Director of Education, Larry Hope, says a highly regarded construction program at LCVI can’t solely be blamed on the PC government.

Among other cuts, the board is facing:

  • a $423,000 shortfall for Early Childhood Educators (ECEs).
  • a $526,000 drop in board funding because of new classroom caps for Grades 4-8.
  • a $3.8 million shortfall as secondary class sizes balloon from 22 to 28 students as a cap

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