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.”
LTO staff will be responsible for online learning with the same students they had been instructing before schools were closed just before March break. Hope added that with a number of maternity leaves in the offing the board will be filling those teachers’ jobs in the negotiated manner, and he anticipates adding staff moving forward, not subtracting.
He shared that for the last two weeks the board has been assisting their supply/occasional teachers financially, but because of a ministry of education directive that assistance is ending April 3. The human resources department “will help people make the transition” to one of the many programs being rolled out by the provincial and federal governments, and hopes these daily supply/occasional staff will qualify for the money set aside for those who have become unemployed because of COVID-19.
Locally, the board has been in the planning and preparation stage since March break. After consulting widely with staff about how to address online learning, the board received more than 1,700 suggestions from employees about what path forward might be successful. Those responses were ranked, with the best of the responses being rolled into the board’s “Learning at Home” model which is already being rolled out at many of the board’s 55 work locations.
The director said that the number one concern expressed was about the equity and accessibility to technology, with him noting the board would do everything possible to ensure students were not left behind because of lack of technology.
Classroom teachers have been asked to survey their students immediately about access to technology and quality and availability of internet service where they live. Most people don’t realize that access to good internet service is not just a rural issue in Kawartha Lakes, Hope says. He notes many urban TLDSB families do not have internet access, not because it isn’t available, but rather because it is unaffordable. The ministry of education is in talks with telecom providers to see what can be done about pricing and issues like data overages which would certainly impact many TLDSB families, particularly if parents have been unable to work because of COVID-19.
Teachers are Reaching Out
Hope said the board and their staff have decided to leave on-line programming in the hands of individual teachers, rather than implement a one-size-fits-all template from the board office. Many teachers and support staff have been contacting their students, some as early as over March Break, and he is very proud “that teachers have been reaching out for weeks.”
TLDSB’s Learning at Home program should be up and running no later than April 6. When asked about teaching staff using their personal mobile devices to contact students, something frowned upon by the College of Teachers, the director said he “knows his staff clearly understands boundaries and that the goodwill of parents during these unusual times will be appreciated.”
The director made a point of praising TLDSB’s custodial staff across the board who have scoured facilities for personal protective equipment to be donated to front line health care workers. The director shared that many gloves and masks have already been donated for area health care workers and emergency staff.