On Wednesday, December 4th, Bluewater teachers joined the 60,000 Ontario teachers and staff who staged a one-day strike in opposition to the Conservative government’s stand on education that includes mandatory e-learning and increased class sizes.
The Saugeen District Senior School (SDSS) teachers were joined by elementary teachers and retirees. According to retired teacher, Geordie Farrell, “The support from the public has been phenomenal. Parents are worried about their children’s education.”
Betty-Jo Raddin, OSSTF District 7 President joined the strike line. “We are opposed to the government’s class sizes and cuts to teachers. We have lost 20 secondary teachers in the Bluewater Board and our class ratio is moving from 22 students to one teacher to 25 students, a 25 per cent increase. It also means that students are not getting their programs and many classes are not at capacity. In 2018, 58 per cent of students who attempted e-learning did not complete their courses.”
The issues of mandatory e-learning is made more of an issue in rural Ontario where many regions do not have high-speed internet access and, according to SDSS branch president Don Matheson, “… we do not even have enough computers in the schools let alone putting the onus on the families.”
Professional Student Services Personnel (PSSP) Vice-President, Tracey MacGregor, also walked with teachers and said that there is a need to protect the most vulnerable students. “We represent front-line support staff that include Administrative staff, custodians, child and youth counselors, social workers, speech pathologists and many more who work directly with students to enhance their learning experience.”
Both women, when asked about the increase to wages being asked for (2%) by the OSSTF union, said that the two per cent amounts to the cost of living (COLA).
The teachers have been working without a contract since August and are currently under work-to-rule which can impact extra-curricular activities such as sports, field trip, music programs among other programs. The possibility of further job action is still in the forecast and the one-day walk-out is seen as a warning to the government. It appears that there is still a wide gap between the union and the government.
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