Board, teachers supportive of schools staying shut
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.