by Kirk Winter
Some concerns about September
learning for September, it will have an impact on what schools can offer, says Craig Horsley, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) District 15.
A total of 297 high school students across the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) have opted to learn from home, he said.
He said as a result, optional courses such as music and technological studies could be hit hard. He said there is some limited government funding available for online learning but it is not enough and the shortage will take money away from brickand-mortar schools.
“There will be fewer senior optional courses available in-person, or if they run, many of those courses will be running at a maximum number allowed,” Horsley said.
Regarding a return to extra-curriculars, Horsley suggested the priority should be getting all students back in the buildings for a full semester and then see what happens.
“We would prefer a more gradual rollout of the school year, with a focus on academics, and then we can think about things like extra-curriculars,”
Horsley said. Horsley questioned who the ministry consulted with about plans for September, saying it was not education stakeholders.
He added parents and many of his members are “really divided” about the return to school and acknowledged the importance of extra-curriculars for student mental health and wellbeing.
“I personally find it disheartening that the province is normalizing COVID and its threats and almost treating it like another kind of flu,” Horsley said. “As we see the dominance of the Delta variant and case numbers rising in the province, I would encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated.”
Board, teachers reach agreement
After months of negotiations and the intervention of a provincial conciliator, the TLDSB and District 15 of the OSSTF have reached and ratified a new three-year collective agreement.
Horsley said he’s pleased with the contract, calling it a housekeeping agreement that focused on local working conditions and featured no obvious losses for local secondary teachers.
“We were able to clear up a lot of little stuff and there is now much clearer language and policies in place that guide how an occasional teacher can make the transition to full-time work and part-time staff will be offered sections based on seniority and qualifications. For supply teachers, the system has been regionalized and involves a rotating list that the board hopes to automate soon,” he said.
With the new destreamed Grade 9 math curriculum rolling out this September, the two sides agreed to set class sizes for this new course at 25.
For the next three years, teachers, like all provincial civil servants, will see a one per cent per year pay increase as mandated by Bill 124.
Horsley predicted very little full-time permanent hiring for the new school year because enrollment across TLDSB is either static or declining.
The ratified contract impacts more than 800 occasional and full-time staff at the secondary level.
Horsley said virtual negotiations were tough and praised the provincial conciliator. The board was represented by retired superintendant Dianna Scates. The board declined comment.