Whitby-based Durham public school board warns parents virtual learning will “not be the same” without education workers

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Published November 18, 2022 at 1:54 pm

Young boy sitting in his room and doing homework

After two years of COVID most parents are aware of virtual learning but the Durham District School Board is cautioning parents and students that the experience will not be the same without the striking education workers who provide “vital” assistance in the process, notably in IT support.

“Employees represented by CUPE performed critical tasks during past transitions to virtual learning. As a result, while educators will do their best when providing virtual learning opportunities, without IT support, clerical assistance, and Educational Assistant (EA) support in virtual classrooms, the experience will not be the same,” the message to parents and students read. “We are particularly concerned about the sustained maintenance of virtual classrooms over an extended duration without the assistance of IT support, as learning platforms require maintenance and attention.”

Should no deal be reached and a strike by the 55,000 education workers happen, the board says elementary schools (excluding [email protected]) will provide live virtual learning starting on the afternoon of Monday, November 21, which will then transition into a full-day schedule on Tuesday. Students will also receive asynchronous learning through their digital classroom platform for the first morning. “As of Tuesday, all kindergarten students should receive 180 minutes of live instruction per day.”

Students in Grades 1-8 receive 225 minutes of live instruction per day. The board acknowledges that that number “may be too lengthy” for the 1-3 age group and educators will work with families to reduce screen time. Educational Assistant support, the statement emphasized, will be unavailable.

Live virtual learning for secondary students (excluding [email protected]) will start on Monday with the first 30 minutes of each scheduled class taking place virtually. Full day (60 minutes per class) live virtual learning will begin on Tuesday.

The Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), representing CUPE’s education workers in Ontario, have served strike notice, and say they are ready to walk the picket line in the fight for a proper contract.

“When this government underfunds education, it’s parents, kids, and the workers who look after them who pay the price. That has to stop,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “We need a deal that gets workers the respect and the pay increase they need and deserve, and a deal that delivers the services kids and parents expect – and we’re going to back our members to the finish line to make sure they get it.”

All elementary and secondary students currently learning through [email protected] will continue with their current schedule with some modifications. “It is important to note that CUPE staff play an important role in maintaining IT systems, providing Educational Assistant support and clerical support and that services will not be the same without CUPE staff at work.”

Live virtual learning will not look the same as it did in the past periods of remote learning for special education classes but ASL Interpreters, Intervenors, Developmental Service Workers and the DDSB Language Acquisition Worker remain available.

All 39 Full-Service Child Care Centres will remain open. However, all licensed Kindergarten and school age before and after  programs, after school recreation programs, and community HUB programs (such as EarlyON) will be closed for the duration of the strike, with limited exceptions.

Students in Grades 7-12 have also been told to bring home their Chromebook today. “Elementary schools may be deploying devices for students in Grades K-6 based upon student needs and the availability of Chromebooks. We do not have surplus equipment to distribute, nor the staff to do it, as we did during the pandemic.”

“We have directed staff to be flexible in terms of their expectations for students. We recognize that not all families will have the same access to the internet or individual computers for children, and that in some families, older siblings may be assisting with childcare during this period.”

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