Teachers Must Stay On School Premises Even If No In-Person Classes Are Scheduled, Ontario School Board Says
Teachers in Dufferin-Peel say new rule makes no sense
Ontario’s Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School board, where COVID-19 infections are among the country’s highest, is demanding teachers remain on school premises at all times — even when they have no in-person classes scheduled.
Teachers say the board’s new policy runs counter to commonsense in the middle of a deadly pandemic and leaves them worried for their health.
A note from the board to all teachers effective February 10 — the day students returned to class — reads:
“All staff continue to be required to report any absence using WebTracs. Aside from the allotted 40-minute uninterrupted lunch, all school-based staff must be present in the school building for the entire length of the school day.”
Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association Dufferin-Peel Secondary local president Maria De Berardinis said the notice was sent February 4. De Berardinis told PressProgress it obligates teachers to remain on school grounds even when they don’t have in-person classes.
“Depending on the hybrid schedule, potentially a teacher will teach every other day completely remotely,” De Berardinis said. “And yet they’re being asked to come into the school.”
Prior to February 10, teachers could request to work from home. Now, as students return to school, she says the board has revoked that option.
“Some of our schools don’t even give us enough space to work in isolation or eat in isolation, pre-pandemic. Some of our members were eating in their cars,” De Berardinis said further.
The board did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress.
Dufferin-Peel is located in Mississauga, Ontario, where COVID-19 rates remain very high after infections spiked during the winter break.
“We’re in Peel region which continues to be a hotspot with variants in our communities,” De Berardinis said. “Our members feel every measures should be taken to reduce exposure and use of shared facilities. This becomes very difficult when all staff have to remain in school for all days. ”
De Berardinis noted other boards, including The Toronto District School Board, have previously allowed staff to work from home when possible.
Update: Following publication of this story, the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board issued a statement to PressProgress highlighting a variety of health and safety protocols it has implemented during the pandemic and offered a lengthy explanation for its policy:
“For operational reasons, not all secondary teachers could be afforded an opportunity to work from home. Working within our hybrid learning environment, secondary teachers work directly with students on an in-person basis in the morning until approximately 11:30 am when students leave the school for home where they are taught remotely until approximately 2:30. At that time, the school day ends (for most schools). There are significantly less individuals in the school from 11:30 to approximately 2:30 pm, the period of time which is in question …
Educators teaching remote only classes from within our schools have access to teaching materials that are not available in a home environment. This includes white boards, blackboards, science labs, etc.) Furthermore, it is important to note that educators teaching remote only classes are required to provide supervision / on call to in-person students when required.
Secondary educators teaching remote only in the afternoon are provided with their own space within the school from which to teach. Elementary educators attend school all day and have students in attendance all day.
Protocols to reduce congregating in staff rooms, etc., have been put in place. As we returned to in-person learning last week, we initiated additional health and safety measures within our schools including daily COVID self-screening verification. We have taken every precaution to prevent our staff and our students from being put in harm’s way.
Staff who have medical needs are provided with workplace accommodation in compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.”
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