Educators protest closure of resource centre, call lack of consultation by province 'insulting'

Three days before the province officially shuts the doors to a resource centre for educators, dozens of teachers took to the streets to show their disappointment. 

Teachers want province to review the closure and allow for consultation

Teachers held a protest Thursday afternoon to show their disappointment over the closure of the Curriculum Support Centre, set for April 1. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

Three days before the province officially shuts the doors to a resource centre for educators, teachers took to the streets to show their disappointment. 

"A lot of people have strong opinions, and it's okay for that to be the case, but the conversations need to happen before sweeping cuts take place," said Lacey Forbes, a Winnipeg highschool teacher.

"If you're not talking to the people in the rooms with the kids, I don't get who's at the table."

The Curriculum Support Centre is a library of classroom materials for teachers to use and is staffed by a handful of librarians. 

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced the closure of the centre earlier this month, which is located in the Robert Fletcher Building at the corner of Portage Avenue and Wall Street.

The province said its putting the centre's resources online and moving the 13 staff members into different positions.

More than 50 people gathered outside the centre holding picket signs, and shouting "kids, not cuts" on Thursday during afternoon rush hour.  

Teachers says they were told by the department of education that only about 14 people use the center each day, but educators say that doesn't give a clear picture of how much the resources are being used.

Forbes said she relies on the support centre daily, often making calls as opposed to dropping in.

Winnipeg teacher, Lacey Forbes is concerned the closure of the Curriculum Support Centre could harm education for years to come, including one day for her son, Warren. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

She and other teachers will now be forced to go online, which is a concern for those outside of Winnipeg.

"What will it be like for communities that don't have reliable Internet, or resources that aren't shareable online? Why wasn't this process started before the closure?" questioned Forbes. 

"It seems to be putting the cart before the horse." 

Librarians a needed resource

The teachers say some of the materials, like interactive learning games, won't work well online.

"It'll make a big difference, I understand the government wants to put a lot of these resources online, but the thing is some of these resources are just not accessible online," she said.

"There's a lot of tactile things, kits, the librarians here are very well-rounded and understand what teachers and students need." 

When pressed on the issue of going online at the time the closure was announced, Goertzen said it may make it easier for teachers.

"There's been something developed called the internet," he said during question period.

Goertzen's answer is not good enough for Ian Smith, who teaches at Pembina Trails Alternative High School.

"[Minister Goertzen] has a limited understanding of how the educative process works and how libraries work and the role they play in them," said Smith. 

"He needs to come and talk to us, because he's wrongheaded about this and he doesn't understand much about education."

The decision to axe the centre will save $1.7 million, the province said.

Ian Smith, a highschool teacher in Winnipeg, believes Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen doesn't understand the ramifications of closing the centre. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

The closure comes on the heels of the province saying they will be seeking public consultation during their review of education in the province, something Smith is also skeptical about. 

"I think it tells us that the consultation on education is a bit of a joke, when people are willing to blindside a resource like this and shut it down," he said.

"If the review was sincere, this would have been a part of the review." 

Several teachers told CBC they didn't think the province would act in good faith during the educational review after how the resource centre closure was handled.

"I fear the worst, you only have to look how this government is operating in such an undemocratic way across the board," said Smith.

'A harm to education'

Gayle Glanfield, a teacher in the Lakeshore School Division, said she believes education for rural students is at risk.

"It hurts, we don't have the ability to come out here [to Winnipeg], but we're using it everyday, it may end up harming rural Manitoba's education," she said.

Gayle Glanfield, a teacher in the Lakeshore School Division, is disappointed the province didn't consult with teachers before making a sweeping cut to close the a resource centre for teachers. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

Glanfield is one of a few teachers who made the drive out to Winnipeg for the protest, and hopes the province understands the tough position it puts rural communities in. 

"Our teachers use this resources on a very regular basis, and sometimes it's the only way we can get it out to our communities," she said.

"Internet in some communities is not developed, there's places still using dial-up, what about them?" 

Despite not being a part of the initial decision to close the centre, some teachers are hoping the government reconsiders and gives them a seat at the table if they do.

"When they say that they're doing an education review and want public consultation and take a step as major as this without us… to say the least it's insulting," she said.

"We should have been consulted, we should have been talked to." 

The Curriculum Support Centre is set to close on April 1.


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