‘We don’t like online learning,’ students say as strike looms – SooToday | Team Cansler

Families are awaiting the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the provincial government and CUPE. Schools will close from Monday if there is a strike

Ontario elementary and secondary school students, along with their parents, are preparing for a return to closed schools and online home learning if the Ontario government and education workers represented by CUPE fail to reach an agreement in their current industrial dispute this weekend.

Students have already gone through more than an extended period of online learning, disconnected from the structure of the classroom, their friends, sports and a variety of extracurricular activities due to COVID lockdowns.

Friday was PA Day for teachers, so SooToday visited Station Mall where some students shared their thoughts on a possible return to online learning.

“I don’t like that,” said Heidi, a grade 10 student at Ecole Secondaire l’Oree des Bois in Dubreuilville as she visited the Sault waterfront shopping center with friends on Friday.

“With online learning, we’re at home and we’re all doing our own thing. It’s easy to get distracted. We have access to our phones so we don’t pay that much attention to what’s going on, but also the teacher isn’t there to help you personally. That will affect my grades,” said Heidi.

“I don’t think it’s good,” said Haylee, an 11th grade student at Hornepayne High School.

“I need a teacher in front of me to personally help me one on one. It’s difficult on a screen. You don’t get in touch with the teachers very much. A lot of people don’t turn on their cameras so their faces can’t be seen. It’s hard to listen to a computer and stare at a computer for hours.”

“We haven’t had our sport in two years. We just got back in and with a strike we might not be able to play in our tournaments. This will affect many of us. I play volleyball and basketball and we’re going to a volleyball tournament in Wawa in two weeks and now we don’t know if that’s going to happen or not,” Haylee said.

“It’s really not nice for the kids to go on strike again,” said Shabnam Shafi, a Mississauga parent interviewed for a Canadian Press article on Friday. “But (the union) should get what they ask, I think they have to negotiate and they have to reach an agreement that is good for everyone. The children must be in school.”

According to CUPE, the two sides recently agreed to a pay rise of $1 an hour per year, or about 3.59 percent per year, but the union is still fighting for increased staffing levels for educational assistants, librarians, janitors, and secretaries Educator.

The union and the government will negotiate by the weekend. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government had presented several improved offers and was not asking for any concessions.

A Lecce spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday that the government was “disappointed” that students would be unable to go to school again next week. “After two years of pandemic disruption, students need to study in class. There they deserve it. We will stay at the table and be ready to strike a fair deal that invests more in low-income workers and most importantly, keeps kids in the classroom,” said Caitlin Clark.

Meanwhile, local students are anxiously awaiting and fearing a possible return to online learning.

“We’ve just gotten back to a normal school year and they’re already taking it away from us. They’re taking away our class time and our high school experience,” said Faythe, an 11th grade student at Korah Collegiate.

She is not a fan of online learning.

“It gets boring. I lose motivation when I’m at home. The teachers are the ones who motivate me to do my schoolwork and I don’t have that at home.”

“I really hope there is no strike. I missed seeing my friends, I missed the routine (during the COVID lockdown). That’s where I see my friends,” Faythe said.

“I don’t like online learning. When you have to take a test, it’s just so hard,” said Aaron, a 12th grade student at St. Mary’s College.

“It’s been a little bit lonely,” Aaron said, referring to earlier stretches of online learning during the COVID lockdowns.

“You can’t really see your friends. All you see is your teacher and some emojis for people. It’s not the same.”

“I’m not going to like that,” said an 8th grade student at Holy Cross Catholic Elementary School, who asked not to be named.

“I won’t like it because I’m into school sports and I couldn’t do it anymore. I feel like I can’t really study online because there are distractions at home,” the student said.

“I think online learning annoys me because I’m a person who enjoys going to school, hanging out with friends and socializing. It doesn’t help at all,” said Jadyn, a sixth grade student at Holy Cross Catholic Elementary School.

“Studying at home is annoying and sometimes my eyes hurt when I look at the computer. If I don’t know how to do something and my parents don’t know, what should I do? The teachers explain what we have to do, what pages to read, when the assignments are due and that’s about it.”

“I just started an outdoor program where you study outdoors in St. Kateri in the mornings. It’s hard to meet people, get close to them and make lifelong friends when you’re at home.”

“I like being active, and it’s hard to be active when you have to be on the couch and working on a computer,” Jadyn said.

The provincial government previously introduced legislation – Bill 28 – that would have made a strike illegal and imposed a settlement on workers represented by CUPE.

Earlier this week, the province repealed Bill 28 and CUPE members returned to work. The two parties agreed to a 3.59 percent wage increase, but CUPE still wants more early childhood education staff and educators in every kindergarten class.

The Ontario government and CUPE will spend the weekend at the negotiating table, with a deadline of 5 p.m. Sunday, to reach an agreement on staffing.

In the event of a strike, the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board has ordered its students not to attend school beginning Monday, November 21.

The Algoma County School Board has said all schools in Elliot Lake and Blind River will remain open and on-site classes will continue as those schools will not be affected by a strike.

In all other areas of the Algoma district, ADSB schools will resume online learning starting November 24 if the strike continues on Tuesday.

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