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Are the teachers onside?

in Back to School 2020/Education by

The short answer? No.

Most Ontario teachers say they want to be back in the classroom this fall, but only if local school boards and the province meet several important criteria. One teacher admitted to being baffled by “how you can teach, discipline and assist without violating social distance regulations. It is simply impossible to do.”

When the province announced in late July that all publicly funded schools were to offer full-day, five-day-a-week school this fall, with pre-COVID class sizes, it caught many teachers off guard and caused a social media backlash seldom seen in the educational community.

One long-time elementary teacher expressed disgust for the Hospital for Sick Children report the province used as a basis for its focus on in-person learning for the fall. (All classroom teachers quoted in this article asked for anonymity in exchange for sharing their candid opinions.) “I am sure they are fine doctors (at Sick Kids) but they haven’t been in a classroom since the days of the one-room school house. I think they are expecting me to stand at the front of the class sheathed in Plexiglas and deliver my lesson. They are so clueless about what real teaching is.”

Online, in meetings and in private, many teachers are voicing similar frustrations about the reopening of schools this fall.

“Our prime concern is the health and safety of our workers, and along with them, students,” said Colin Matthew in an e-mail. His union represents secondary teachers in Trillium Lakelands District School Board.

“We will be focused primarily on infection control.”This may mean some combination of masking along with physical distancing which can be incredibly difficult in a high school environment and on the buses,” Matthew added.

His counterpart with the elementary teachers’ union, Karen Bratina, agreed. “Regardless of the model (for instruction) emergency funding must be provided by the Ford government to ensure a safe and effective reopening of schools for all stakeholders,” she said.

“Boards will require additional staff to ensure smaller class sizes for social distancing requirements,” Bratina added, “and sufficient personal protective equipment must be provided along with additional hand-washing facilities throughout the school.”

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association represents staff in the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board (PVNCCDSB). It issued a strongly worded statement on August 10 that read, in part, “The safe care of our children is a fundamental social compact. Society and economies are built around child care. Parents want to send their kids back to school, but only if it is safe.”

“Older teachers instructing high school students every day and in classes of 25 to 30 are very concerned about catching COVID,” one veteran teacher said.

“We now know teens carry and spread the disease at the same or higher rates than other adults, and that scares me.”

TLDSB says long-term occasional teachers’ statuses won’t change

in Education by
School board trustee wonders why teachers are not priority for vaccines

Larry Hope, director of education for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB), says the board will not be laying off any long-term occasional teachers (LTOs) in the wake of COVID-19.

Hope was addressing a Facebook rumour that suggested the board would be laying off all their long time LTOs on April 3. But the director says “if a person was doing an LTO their status will not change.”

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TLDSB tells province it is concerned with fewer teachers, mandatory e-learning

in Education by

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board has written to the minister of education, Stephen Lecce, about the unique challenges facing our local board in wake of provincial cuts to education.

The letter comes on the heels of an Advocate opinion piece that questioned why the local school board was not doing more to advocate on behalf of local students. For instance, a few Greater Toronto Area boards wrote letters directly to the minister to share their concerns.

TLDSB chair of the board, Bruce Reain, told the Advocate that TLDSB largely relies on the Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) to represent its interests.

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Local education workers participate in province-wide walkout

in Education by
Local union leader says plenty of supply teachers; no need to abruptly cancel extracurriculars

Tomorrow educators in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, and Muskoka will participate in the first province wide strike ever involving members of AEFO, ETFO, OECTA, and OSSTF — all of the education unions in Ontario.

In all about 200 000 educators will be on strike and all public schools in Ontario will be closed for the day. This coordinated action comes as the Ontario Legislature returns from its winter break with no apparent movement on the education front.

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Striking on-call teachers ‘entirely’ to blame for no extracurriculars: school board

in Education by
Striking on-call teachers 'entirely' to blame for no extracurriculars: school board
TLDSB has cancelled all extracurricular activities.

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. Keep Reading

Remembering Dave Auger

in Community/Education by
Dave Auger, circa 1984. I.E. Weldon year book.

It was a small gesture, in a way, but one that affected the rest of my life, as small gestures so often do. The time was the mid-1980s, and I was in Grade 12 at I.E. Weldon. I wasn’t a great math student, but for some reason I was still taking functions and relations, with David Auger — well, he was Mr. Auger to us, of course — as my teacher.

I thought he was nice enough; he seemed kind, if awkward, and he encouraged me despite my lack of aptitude for his subject.

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High school teachers stage walk-out for first time in 22 years

in Education by
Catholic principals join call for slower re-opening

OSSTF negotiators remained at the table right up to a midnight strike deadline but the union says the provincial government and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce “failed to bring a single proposal to the bargaining table.

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ETFO says new work to rule strike action to affect administration, not students

in Education by

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is engaging in a series of local meetings to prepare members for a work-to-rule strike action that begins on Tuesday, November 26. The action targets Ministry and school board administrative tasks and does not impact on students.

“We are making this known well in advance to assure parents that this strike action will not affect students, their learning or their safety,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “ETFO members will be withdrawing from Ministry and school board administrative activities, which will give them more time to focus on working with students.”

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Teachable moment: Back to school under the shadow of cuts to education

in Education by
Teachable moment: Back to school under the shadow of cuts to education

September always brings back the excitement and promise of a new school year. For some kids and parents it can be a bit of a nervous time. And this year, we all have a reason to be more than a little nervous. Along with new teachers and classmates, students and their parents will be experiencing another thing this year: the first effects of the cuts to education announced by the Ontario PC government in March earlier this year.

As Sinead Fagan, communications officer at the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) explains, “The cuts will be felt system-wide. The 2019-2020 budget has been reduced in many areas.” Instructional budgets (including staffing) are down $10.7 million dollars this year alone.

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Teachers: For the people

in Opinion by
School board trustee wonders why teachers are not priority for vaccines

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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