Several school boards in Ontario are seeking to hire staff for emergency replacement who are not certified, as the Omicron wave has led to staff shortages.
Several leaders of teachers’ unions in the province told Star that non-certified staff who come in to supervise students under unforeseen circumstances are underqualified and that relying on this type of staffing in the long run is not sustainable.
“As a result of Omicron, boards are allowed to use emergency supplies,” said Karen Brown, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. “But it is not a long-term solution.
“It’s supposed to be very short-term to help. They’re not supposed to replace qualified teachers to actually deliver the curriculum,” she said. Brown said she has heard that these non-certified staff will be brought in. on a rotation and may need to deliver syllabus.
Schools were due to reopen for personal learning on Monday, but bad weather delayed it for many.
Missing students and teachers are a problem with the reopening, as continued spread of the virus in society will undoubtedly affect staffing and attendancethe province said last week.
As a result, teacher trainees are allowed to provide classrooms, and retired teachers can now work a maximum of 95 days, higher than the previous 50-day benchmark.
However, under the Education Act, a school board may appoint a person who is not a teacher in emergency cases. This person must be at least 18 years old and have a high school education. They can occupy a position for up to 10 days from the day they are hired, according to the law.
“I think they’ll have an extraordinarily difficult time filling the vacancies,” Brown said. “We see it in healthcare and other sectors, it has been very difficult and education will not be any different.”
She said union members do not feel schools are safe and boards may have trouble attracting more staff, especially temporary relief workers, as they do not want health care or sick days.
School boards reported high absenteeism rates before Omicron, and the province has invested over $ 300 million to hire about 2,300 additional staff for me, said Caitlin Clark, spokesman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
More than 12,000 people were brought into school boards through hiring teacher graduates and by letting retired teachers work multiple days, she said.
Last week, the province said that was it increased resources and investments around personal learning, including the provision of faster tests and a non-fit N95 mask for training staff.
The Halton Catholic District School Board has an Emergency Replacement Supply employment notice inviting non-certified applicants who are not awaiting certification from the Ontario College of Teachers.
The Durham District School Board also employed, until Monday, uncertified emergency supply teachers. The board also issued a notice searching for unauthorized personnel in November due to a “province-wide” shortage of teachers, the DDSB said in a statement at the time.
In October, Norah Marsh, the director of education on the board, told school union representatives that staff absenteeism was at a high level due to “for COVID-19 handling.” The criminal record was accelerated as a result of quick hires.
The Durham board told Star that since December it has hired 592 staff and 207 have been uncertified casual teachers. Uncertified staff are only used in situations where certified teachers are not available, it says.
The Star sent an email to several other GTA school boards about emergency hiring. The Peel District School Board said it relies on this type of “security” staff placement as school monitors. It did not provide further information on how many uncertified employees it is looking for.
The York Region District School Board said staff shortages are not unique to public education. “While we will use emergency lists if necessary, this is not our preference and we will work towards ensuring fulfillment when we reopen for personal learning,” it said in a statement.
TDSB was unable to answer staffing questions within the deadline.
Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said it is a concern if boards have to become too dependent on emergency staff as they are not qualified to teach the curriculum.
“Education is not a vending machine where you press a button and a lesson comes out,” she said. “These are trained professionals who are on sick leave and will not be replaced by anyone who can do the job.”
Education workers do not feel respected because the province has not provided working conditions that will make them feel safe enough during the pandemic, Littlewood said.
The province does not offer PCR testing for students and teachers, unless they become symptomatic while in school, has been a concern.
OSSTF has also called for more HEPA filters, reduced class sizes and proper testing and tracking. Currently absence will be reportedbut not COVID-19 numbers in schools.
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