Board, teach­ers sup­port­ive of schools stay­ing shut

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Front Page - KRIS DUBE AND GORD HOWARD THE WELLAND TRI­BUNE AND THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

The prov­ince’s de­ci­sion to can­cel classes for the rest of the school year has the sup­port of unions rep­re­sent­ing many of Ni­a­gara’s teach­ers.

“We def­i­nitely wish that our stu­dents were in school and that we were there teach­ing them,” said Jada Nick­le­fork, pres­i­dent of the Ni­a­gara local for the El­e­men­tary Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion of On­tario. “But I think un­der the cir­cum­stances and how un­safe it would be to re­sume classes, I sup­port the premier’s de­ci­sion.”

Premier Doug Ford and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Stephen Lecce con­firmed Tues­day schools will re­main locked and stu­dents will fin­ish the aca­demic year June 26 at home, through on­line lessons.

Classes were can­celled just be­fore March break and the dead­line to re­open had been pushed back to May 31. “We can­not open schools at this time — I’m just not go­ing to risk it,” Ford said. The govern­ment is still con­sid­er­ing how to re­open schools in the fall.

Nick­le­fork, whose local rep­re­sents about 1,500 pub­lic el­e­men­tary teach­ers across Ni­a­gara, said most have adapted well to pro­vid­ing vir­tual learn­ing. But “there’s not that in­ter­ac­tion with the stu­dents.”

“Right away, you’re not get­ting that im­me­di­ate feed­back that you’re giv­ing a stu­dent that they can learn and grow from that … it’s not ideal, but it’s def­i­nitely some­thing they are try­ing to em­brace and do their best with.”

Shan­non Smith, Ni­a­gara’s On­tario Se­condary School Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent, said her union also backs the de­ci­sion.

“Keep­ing our stu­dents and staff safe is of ut­most im­por­tance,” she said, “so I’m re­lieved they’ve de­cided to play things safe for now.”

On its web­site, the On­tario English Catholic Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion agreed with the cau­tious ap­proach to re­open­ing schools.

But it was crit­i­cal of the govern­ment’s “lack of en­gage­ment” with it over school clo­sures and plans for even­tu­ally re­open­ing schools.

In a news re­lease, Ni­a­gara

West Con­ser­va­tive MPP Sam Ooster­hoff called clo­sure a “dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion.”

Ooster­hoff, who is par­lia­men­tary assistant to Lecce, said, “We are work­ing with our med­i­cal com­mand ta­ble and ed­u­ca­tion stake­hold­ers to en­sure we can pro­vide as much sup­port as pos­si­ble in these dif­fi­cult times.”

He also thanked teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tors for their work.

In a state­ment, Dis­trict School Board of Ni­a­gara said it sup­ports the de­ci­sion, adding “our stu­dents have been re­silient in deal­ing with the change from class­room to vir­tual learn­ing” and cred­it­ing parents for their ef­forts.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board could not be reached for com­ment late Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Sam Ooster­hoff

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