Looming Quebec strike pits parents against school boards

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WATCH: Teachers represented by two unions will hold a one-day strike overnight starting at just after midnight until 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. According to the teachers, the goal was to put pressure on the employer without too much disruption to the school day. On Monday, some school boards and service centres announced that learning would be moved online on Wednesday, a decision the teachers call "a slap in the face". Global's Phil Carpenter explains – Apr 13, 2021

Some parents are refusing to have their kids participate in online learning on Wednesday in place of in-person classes.

The decision for remote learning was made by several school boards in the province because elementary and high school teachers are holding a one-day overnight strike which ends at 9:30 a.m.

Contract negotiations are at the heart of their action.

According to a letter sent to teachers by the Lester B. Pearson School Board, “Given the impact that this job action will have on our elementary and secondary schools, notably due to the impossibility of organizing student transportation services and morning daycare services, the Lester B. Pearson School Board will be proceeding with certain scheduling changes.  On April 14th, Lester B. Pearson schools will offer online virtual classes for all elementary and secondary students.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Air quality concerns among reasons for Quebec teachers’ strike votes

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That notice was sent Monday.  Talia D’Costa who has four kids at that school board, believes the notice didn’t give teachers enough time to prepare.

“Quickly it was made evident to us that the school board, in essence, blindsided the teachers,” she told Global News.  “I have emailed my kids’ teachers to let them know that they won’t be taking part in online learning on Wednesday.”

Another parent, Shannon Figsby, decided to write the letter, co-signed by D’Costa.  She said not giving the educators enough time to prepare in unfair.

“Teachers have been nothing less than miracle workers this year but this is pushing it,” she insisted.

In the letter she lambasted the school board saying “our children will abstain from participating in this attempt to trivialize your right to demand fair treatment in your workplaces.”

Read more: Quebec to start vaccinating essential workers, chronically ill in Montreal

Quebec Provincial Teachers Association president Heidi Yetman points out that students are supposed to be taught in-person, and that the only reason online learning was introduced this year was because of the pandemic.

“Now the school boards are using that have online learning during a strike day,” she said.  “These are two separate issues.  We consider the online learning illegal at this point by the school boards.”

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She pointed out that the plan for teachers was to return to classes after ending the strike at 9:30, and according to her, school boards had enough time to plan.

“The school boards received the notice of strike April 1st.  They had two weeks to organize this.”

In an email statement, Lester B. Pearson School Board spokesperson pointed out that “A delayed school start was judged to be too hazardous as well as logistically difficult given the impossibility of organizing transportation services as well as morning daycare services.  Moreover the current public health measures limit the ability for large numbers of students to gather without adequate on-site supervision to ensure social distancing.  We understand that the short notice of this scheduling change is disruptive and we deeply regret any inconveniences that this may cause parents and their children.”

Both D’Costa and Figsby hope more parents will refuse to have their kids take part in online classes to send a strong message in support of teachers.

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