School system 'on the brink of collapse', says local union president

The local president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario says COVID has created a teacher shortage in the classroom and something needs to happen or schools will close.

ETFO president says too many teachers off work and not enough substitutes

ETFO president says schools may have to close due to high rate of teacher absenteeism. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The president of the union representing English public elementary school teachers in Windsor-Essex says the schools are on the brink of closing due to lack of staff.

COVID-19 absenteeism is increasing and the union said there just won't be enough teachers to cover all the classes.

"If certain measures are not taken place, we will have to do what other school boards have done in the province of Ontario and close schools because we don't have the staff in place to teach, to support our students with special needs. We're in a dire situation here," said Mario Spagnuolo, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

The Greater Essex County District School Board would not confirm a teacher shortage but spokesperson Scott Scantlebury released a written statement:

"The GECDSB will not speculate on what may happen, however we are prepared to deal with any situation that may arise. If any action is deemed necessary, we will share the information with the school community directly, as soon as possible."

The Windsor Essex District Catholic School Board reports it is not having any issues with staffing.

Spagnuolo said teachers are either off sick with COVID-19 or are isolating because they've been exposed to it. He said occasional teachers are also susceptible because they move between schools. He welcomes the asymptomatic testing being done now with students, but he says it's "too little, too late."

He said it should have been implemented at least three weeks ago — teachers were asking for it back in September, according to him.

"The minister of education, the school board and the powers [involved] need to have a plan as to what's going to happen because [closures] happened in other school boards. It's just a matter of time for it to hit Windsor-Essex," said Spagnuolo.

He also said the type of PPE available to teachers isn't protective enough and that classroom sizes are too big. Spagnuolo said schools might have to go back to online learning because students can't mix with each other's cohorts, preventing teachers from teaching other classes.

But Samantha Marshall, whose son is in junior kindergarten (JK), said she doesn't want to go back to online learning.

"I think it would definitely put a curve ball in my life. I work full-time, so I rely on the school so I can do my job. I work in a nursing home, taking care of people," said Marshall.

"I do understand the struggles, but at the same time, having a JK online doesn't go over very well. [My son] wasn't as focused and paying attention as much. So it was a lot of stress on my son as well as myself," she said.

Samantha Marshall has a boy in junior kindergarten and doesn't want to see classes return to online. (Dale Molnar/CBC)


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is an award-winning video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print.


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