Teachers striking again this week as dispute with province continues
By Don Crosby
WALKERTON – Teacher unions are ramping up walkouts.
On Monday, Feb. 3 the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) held a walk out in Walkerton.
Only ETFO members were required to walk the picket line but there was support from Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) members who joined the elementary teachers on the picket line during their breaks.
More than 100 took part in the Feb. 3 picket.
Allison Dinsmore, representative for the teachers at the Walkerton Community School, said some families have joined the teachers, as have some Catholic school teachers.
“We feel good support from the community; members who are driving by are honking and waving. We feel like the community is really on our side,” she said.
Dinsmore said among the most important issues is classroom violence, which she said is on the rise.
“I’m just a new teacher myself, and in the first five years of teaching I’m definitely noticing an increase of violence; from having to evacuate classrooms or being physically or verbally abused by students,” said Dinsmore, warning that if caps on class sizes are removed, violence will increase.
Some teachers are required to wear protective equipment, which would require consent from the parents. She said reducing the number of educational assistants would also put students at risk.
“These mental health issues are real and if we don’t have that money in the community to deal with them, they don’t know how to cope in the classroom,” said Dinsmore.
“Not all of the problems started in the classroom. I’m not just being a teacher, I’m also being like a mother, like a social worker. I have to deal with more than just teaching the curriculum,” she added.
Currently there are caps on classes in Kindergarten. If they are lifted, class sizes could increase to 30 plus students.
On Feb. 4, Catholic teachers across Ontario held action for both the elementary and secondary schools.
More than 150 teachers from Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, along with those from St. Teresa of Calcutta, Holy Family of Hanover, Sacred Heart Mildmay, Sacred Heart Teeswater and St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s in Durham gathered in Walkerton for the one-day walkout.
Mario Turcotte, a teacher at Sacred Heart in Walkerton, said he could have retired a couple of years ago but held off because he loves his job so much.
“I really believe that I have to work with those young teachers because there is no way you can teach a class of 40 students,” he said. “We have to work for those special needs students for educational assistants.”
Deborah Carter, president of the Bruce Grey Catholic teacher’s union, secondary unit, represents about 110 members at the secondary level in Grey-Bruce and occasional membership of about 80 more.
She said some of the main concerns include attempts to increase class sizes. At the secondary level another issue is establishment mandatory e-learning.
“We have significant concerns about those class sizes in those e-learning programs, how those programs will be implemented and who would be actually managing, overseeing them and teaching them,” said Carter. “A big concern for us, especially in small communities, is we look at loss of programs for students… we are losing some programs that attract students… with loss of that programming students have to go elsewhere.”
On a larger scale is concern for protecting the province’s world class education system.
“Countries around the world look to the quality of education in Ontario. What we have maintained and what we do on a daily basis now is under threat,” said Carter.
Carter said the morale among teachers is good, and parental support is phenomenal.
Public elementary schools in Grey Bruce were impacted twice during the week of Feb. 10-14 by ETFO walkouts.
ETFO members withdrew services province-wide on Tuesday, Feb. 11. If no new collective agreement has been reached with the Ford government, they will also withdraw services on Thursday, Feb .13.