TORONTO – Labor negotiations with teachers continue, OntarioThe U.S. education minister is emphasizing that the government hopes students will have access to extra-curricular when classes resume in September.
Stephen Lecce made the remarks at a Toronto-area press conference on Monday, where he highlighted the government’s plans to help students catch up with the pandemic’s disruption years.
He committed to keeping children in the classroom for the entire school year and argued activities such as sports and clubs – which had been canceled in the past during labor functions – are vital to students’ overall success.
“I believe that after two years of great hardship, it is right to ensure that the child returns to the normal and full student experience, which includes clubs and extracurriculars,” he told reporters.
“We are indicating our clear intention to provide those services, to restore those experiences, and to support children, and we know that the teachers who deeply care for their children will do the right thing and make sure those experiences be put back for the children.”
His remarks came as the government bargained with education unions before the contract expired in late August.
Negotiations were going on during the last round of negotiations three years ago. Teachers took action-by-rule action at various points, disrupting extracurriculars such as sports and clubs.
Lecce said he is confident, however, that the province will reach labor agreements that provide stability to students.
Initial bargaining meetings with unions began last week and Lecce said most have agreed to meet again during the summer.
“We all have to make a commitment: It’s up to these kids, to go back to normal schools,” he said. “We are very confident we can do this and we look forward to landing deals with every willing partner as soon as humanly possible to provide stability to these children.”
Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said she agreed with Lecce that extracurriculars are important but noted that they are voluntary for teachers.
He said some teachers are excited to offer extra-curriculars, but some are still concerned about the risks of COVID-19 in schools, especially now that masks are not mandatory. He said many are tired of the pandemic or have other challenges with the extra-curriculars offered.
“They’re voluntary and I haven’t been told otherwise,” Littlewood said of the extracurriculars. “I hope our members will, where they want to have an extra-curricular and offer one, they will, and can choose to do nothing.”
Littlewood said the first negotiating meeting was positive and he doesn’t see any problem reaching a deal right now.
On Monday, Lecce also pitched the government’s plans to help students catch up with COVID-19, including previously announced funding for tuition and mental health support.
He also discussed the health ministry’s plans to provide rapid COVID-19 tests “whenever symptoms arise” to students and staff in schools.
The opposition New Democrats were critical of the lack of new funding in the announcement. Education critic Marit Styles said children and education workers needed more help, adding that the government should have offered more money to help people get back on track.
Styles also accused Lecce of prompting teachers to offer voluntary extra-curricular courses. She said teachers want to offer activities, but like Littlewood, she said those activities are voluntary, unpaid work given by teachers that have been burned by years of pandemic teaching.
“They do it for the good of their heart, because they love children, so it should be something we celebrate, not something we criticize them for when they feel tired and Not to do that,” she said.
“Let’s talk about why they feel exhausted. Let’s talk about why they feel down. Let’s talk about what’s happened to education workers in our province over the past four years. , just like health care workers. They are exhausted and at wit’s end.”
© 2022 Canadian Press