Union, parents upset with Parry Sound, Almaguin school closures

·2 min read

The switch back to remote synchronous learning after the provincial government’s announcement on April 12 has left parents and teachers with little notice to prepare.

Carissa MacDonald, mother of three, said that the back-and-forth measures from the Ford government are giving her whiplash.

“I’m just frustrated that the advice has constantly been given and it’s not been taken,” said MacDonald, whose younger children are a part of the Near North District School Board and Trillium Lakelands District School Board.

“If Ford had just followed what the epidemiologists had said from the get-go, we wouldn’t be in this shit show where the schools are closed.”

Her youngest daughter is in French immersion through Trillium Lakelands. Before the pandemic, MacDonald said, her daughter was thriving in school.

Now, she said, her daughter is extremely anxious, misses her friends and is not getting work done.

“It’s a horrible, horrible system,” said MacDonald, adding that her family had made the decision to keep remote learning in September due to MacDonald being a transplant patient and therefore at high risk for COVID-19 complications.

“She’s not getting anything done, she’s super far behind, yet before she was top of the class,” she said.

“ … This platform doesn’t work for her. I don’t think it works for anyone.”

Near North Teachers’ Local president Rob Hammond said that the entire province was caught off-guard when the provincial government announced on April 12 that schools would be moving to online learning.

“Our school board had issued letters to parents saying that we would be back to in-person learning on the 19th,” said Hammond.

“We’ve been trapped on an emotional roller-coaster of indecision,” he continued. “It’s not fair to students, it’s not fair to teachers and it’s not fair to parents because we don’t know whether we’re coming or going from one day to the next.”

Asked about how the emotional roller-coaster impacts teachers’ mental health, Hammond replied that Near North District teachers are prepared to do what is required.

“The problem is that this government just keeps changing the rules overnight and thinks that going from online learning to in-person learning and back — you just flip a switch and it happens,” he said.

Emphasizing the importance of needing time to plan and transition, Hammond said that teachers need time to transition and prepare the students properly.

“We can’t just flip a switch and change on a whim … if we knew it was coming, it would be easy for us to do, but we’re caught off-guard.”

In the Near North District School Board, most students will begin online learning on Tuesday, April 20.

Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star