Sick Days for Teachers Causing Significant Issues in Mississauga Schools
Parents and school administrators are sounding the alarm over what some are calling a supply teacher shortage in Peel (the region that includes Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon).
But it looks like the problem goes beyond a possible lack of occasional teachers.
A recent CityNews segment reported that a possible shortage of supply teachers has led to classes being combined—or in some cases, parent volunteers being called in—when a full-time teacher at the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) cannot make it in.
While it might look like there are simply not enough occasional teachers available, a spokesperson for the DPCDSD told insauga.com that the problem isn't necessarily a lack of qualified professionals, but rather problematic absenteeism among full-time staff.
"The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, similar to other boards across the province, has experienced an increase in absenteeism," Bruce E. Campbell, general manager - communications & community relations, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, said in an email to insauga.com.
"There is no shortage of qualified occasional teachers on our occasional teacher list. Occasional teachers can register with multiple school boards and can pick and choose their assignments at any of the boards in which they are registered. We are competing with other boards, who are also experiencing an increase in absenteeism, to secure occasional teachers to cover absenteeism."
According to a recent Fraser Institute report, absenteeism is on the rise.
The report points out that, prior to the 2011-12 school year, Ontario teachers could bank their unused sick leave and then cash it out upon retirement.
The report says these banked days added up to $47,000.
A few years ago, the Dalton McGuinty government banned the practice and gave teachers a set number of sick days that they can use over the course of the school year. Unused sick days are now just that—unused.
They can no longer be banked or carried over.
In 2017, an Auditor General report found that teachers are taking 29 per cent more sick days—11.6 days per staff member, up from just nine days previously.
The Fraser Institute says this is happening at more than 50 school boards across Ontario.
But while that data might not appear to reflect well on teachers, the Fraser Institute says using more sick days may simply be seen as more prudent—and more beneficial for staff and students who might otherwise catch a cold or flu from a sick teacher.
"So are teachers sicker now than they were five years ago? Probably not. Is the fact that they take more days off now than five years ago mean something untoward is happening? Also unlikely," the report says.
"We should also remember that due to the nature of their jobs, teachers are in the line of fire when it comes to contracting illness from children. It's rather telling that elementary teachers tend to take more sick days (11.3 days) than secondary teachers (9.6 days). By the time they reach high school, students are hopefully more aware of good hygiene practices and are less likely to sneeze directly into their teacher's face."
That said, increased absenteeism is putting a great deal of strain on school boards across Ontario.
"The increase in absenteeism, in combination with having to compete with other school boards also experiencing increased absenteeism for occasional teachers, can lead to incidences of unfilled assignments," Campbell says.
"In exceptional cases, we have no other option but to disperse students to other classes for the day or, in some cases, utilize an emergency supply teacher. These conditions are not specific to DPCDSB. They exist province-wide."
Campbell says he hopes the province will help school boards deal with the issue.
"It would be our hope that the province will examine this issue with a view to identifying the reasons why an increase in absenteeism has occurred, along with a province-wide strategy for decreasing absenteeism."
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