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Conflict between Ontario government and teachers union escalate and leaves schools in cloud of uncertainty

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on September 01, 2020 with No Comments

Teachers’ unions take province to labour board over workplace safety as first day of school approaches.

Doug Garlick packed up his personal belongings Monday in his Pickering, Ont. classroom as he prepared for an uncertain school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the last few years, the 61-year-old has taught Grade 1 in the Durham District School Board. But this year, because of the danger the novel coronavirus poses to him due to his Crohn’s disease and diabetes, he’s teaching online.

But like so many teachers in Ontario, he still doesn’t know what date classes will begin. He also doesn’t know what grade he’ll be teaching, or even how he’ll be teaching it.

“We’re not sure what platform we’ll be using, what delivery method,” he told CBC News over the phone. “There are many of us that are pretty close to panic at this stage, just not knowing what’s going on.”

All the uncertainty comes amid an escalating conflict between Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government and four major teachers’ unions. While Garlick and many other teachers will be holding virtual classes, others are worried about how teaching in classrooms during the pandemic might endanger their health.

Parents can’t expect teachers to be ready to start virtual programs this month, Garlick said.

“I cannot realistically know how that’s going to happen because we don’t know what we’re doing yet,” he said.

Garlick, like many teachers in the province, is expected to receive some additional training about online learning this week, but he doesn’t know what it will cover.

After the pandemic forced the province to shut down schools in the spring, Garlick said, his class moved online. But he didn’t teach in real time. Rather, students would visit class website at their leisure.

This school year, he said, things may be different.

“I believe they’re trying to put us more toward the live teaching method,” he said. But that presents its own challenges, — especially with a large group of students with mixed abilities, he said.

The premier said he couldn’t understand the unions’ perspective.

“We have done absolutely everything … Every idea possible, we’re putting into the classrooms,” he said. “If you compare the report card with all the other provinces, it’s night and day … The teachers’ unions just want to fight. They want to fight with everyone,” Ford said.

Ford said he distinguishes between the unions and actual teachers he’s spoken to whom he says tell him he will “do a great job.”


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