New Brunswick

Parents, students organize boycott of online learning, starting Friday

A movement to boycott online classes in New Brunswick has gained traction on social media among some parents and students. 

Students have been attending online classes for the last two weeks as the CUPE strike continues.

Students in New Brunswick have been attending online classes for the last two weeks as the CUPE strike continues. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A movement to boycott online classes starting Friday in New Brunswick has gained traction on social media among some parents and students. 

Mélissa Daigle Richard started a Facebook group called "Après le 12 Novembre …. NON à l'école Virtuel" this week to rally parents to pull their children out of online classes.

The group's goal is to pressure the government to get kids back into schools.

All schools closed two weeks ago when provincial employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees went on strike over wages. Students have been attending online classes since then.

Richard started her Facebook group to protest online learning on Wednesday night, and in less than 24 hours it had attracted more than 1,500 members. 

Richard said she was surprised by the attention and support.

"I felt, wow, we're not alone," she said.

Mélissa Daigle Richard started a Facebook group to encourage parents to pull their children out of online classes during the strike. (Mélissa Daigle Richard)

Richard sent an email on Wednesday night to the principal of her son's school, to Premier Blaine Higgs and to Education Minister Dominic Cardy, informing them that her son, who's in Grade 10, would no longer be attending online classes. 

Richard said her son has been having a hard time keeping up with online classes. 

"He has headaches, he's not doing well at all," she said. "We feel as parents that the kids need to go back to school to learn."

Richard and other parents are hoping a boycott of online classes will get their kids back to in-person classes faster. 

"Another plan needs to be done. Online, every day, is not an answer," she said. 

In a statement sent to CBC News on Friday, Education Minister Dominic Cardy said he understands the situation is not "ideal," but schools would not be able to welcome students back safely without adequate custodial services and educational assistant support. 

"That is why I've reached out to CUPE to see if some sort of arrangement may be made that would provide the system with greater stability and welcome students back to class before the strike action ends," said Cardy. 

Students plan boycott 

Mia Richard, a Grade 12 student at École L'Odysée in Moncton, is not planning on attending online classes as of Friday. 

"It's not easy doing meetings from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every single day," Richard said. "We don't see our friends, we don't do anything else all week long." 

In addition to the Facebook group, a poster has been circulating among students on social media, encouraging them to stop attending classes as of Nov. 12 in solidarity with CUPE workers. 

This poster has been circulating on social media among New Brunswick students, encouraging them to stop attending online classes as of Nov. 12. (Facebook)

"We're trying to prove to Premier Higgs and Dominic Cardy that, yes, online school is good, but it's not sufficient. It's not enough," she said. 

Among her peers, Richard said, opinions vary on participating in the boycott.

Some students want to participate, but are worried about their grades. Richard, who plans on attending St. Thomas University next year, said she shares the same concern. 

Mia Richard, centre, plans on boycotting online classes as of Friday in an effort to pressure the New Brunswick government to get students back into schools. (Mia Richard)

"I've been scared that if I don't go to the meetings, I'm going to fail," she said. 

Despite this fear, Richard said continuing to attend online classes can't be the answer. 

"I hope that they choose to pay workers what they deserve so we could all get back to our normal routines." 

Online school taking financial toll on families

Bobbie Collins's kids haven't attended online classes since the CUPE strike began two weeks ago.

"It's not realistic for them to be doing online schooling. They're in grades three and one," she said. "It's a lot of extra work we didn't plan for."

Collins said that because of the strike, daycares are now opening for full days, meaning that fees have jumped $60 a week per child.

The higher fees mean that Collins and her husband are now taking turns staying at home with their five children. 

"As parents, we all have budgets," said Collins. "My income didn't go up."

Despite the toll school closures are having on Collins's family, she said her support for CUPE workers is unwavering. 

"I hope they get what they want and that they continue to strike for as long as it takes," she said. 

"It's a difficult situation for parents to be in, to not have their kids in school. But I also don't think it's fair that these bus drivers and custodians and EAs aren't getting the proper pay that they deserve."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nojoud Al Mallees

Reporter/Producer

Nojoud Al Mallees covers economics for The Canadian Press. She's based in Ottawa.

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