TORONTO - Can someone please tell the truth? It’s been that type of a week. Parents who send their children to schools in the TCDSB got an unpleasant surprise when their children brought home notes from their school alerting them to expect a “reorganization” of their children’s in-class learning experience.
The notes said class size could go to as high as 31 students per class. The changes would take effect by October 12 – the day after the Thanksgiving weekend.
What is more, the claim was that the order came from on high: it was mandated by the Ministry of Education (Minister, Stephen Lecce).
“Passing the buck” became the order of the day: No more money in the budget; Not enough parents registered their children; Teachers so stressed that they opted for sick leave; Classes cancelled, courses sporadically offered, unqualified personnel in front of a class; Students told their friends are no longer in the same room as “cohorts” are split. The list goes on.
This “it wasn’t my fault” syndrome casts its pall on the Administration of the Board, its Trustees and the Minister, whose level of incompetence reaches new heights daily. He is confused by his own skills at subterfuge and distraction. On Friday, for example, he made a big announcement about how a franchise pharmacy will donate menstrual products for students who might otherwise find themselves without provision and therefore miss out on sports activities. We are in the fourth wave of Covid.
In my limited experience, local school administrations have provided that service to their female students for the last forty years. What schools have no experience in providing is the safe environment required to fend off the Covid -19 contagion and/or that of its variants. Parents are equally ill-equipped, so their default position has been to defer to the expertise made available by “trusted” professionals in government and public health. Good luck. Better to rely on their own “common sense” and concern for their children.
Hence the barrage on the Trustees by delegations on October 7. Classrooms – walls, floors and ceilings – have not changed dimensions. Adding more students cannot possibly be construed as improving social distancing; crowding has been identified as the one sure way of spreading the virus. Whether the reorganization has come because of fewer teachers available, fewer students to justify the required number of teachers or the allocation of resources, it falls within the responsibility of the Administration. They have known since August 6 what the conditions would be.
In an email to the Corriere Canadese, the Minister’s spokesperson shifted blame squarely onto the Board’s shoulders: there are no class size limits in the Education Act and Boards are responsible for their decisions; adding that the Minister consults with public health officials and is guided by them. And, by the way, he has poured hundreds of millions of dollars in additional monies to meet just this type of crisis, she said, even though the Financial Accounting Office has a different assessment.
Nonetheless, trustees spent the greater part of the evening looking for that “Pontius Pilate” moment, alternating between righteous declarations of conflict and self-aggrandizing posturing of “support for parents and children”. Oh, really? No wonder there is a movement afoot to clear the decks in the next election.
Here’s the cherry on the cake. The delegations notwithstanding, the Director, Brendan Browne, said the system-wide averages for class size are quite good: for JK-SK, 24.8 students per class; for grades 1-3, 17.7, for grades 4-8, 23.9 and for high school 22.9.
Feel better? If not, Parents have scheduled a protest at Queens Park for October 12, 10:00 AM
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