The limit for retired teachers is reduced to 50 days of work per year

Beginning in 2020-21, the limit was increased to 95 days a year to help school boards address a shortage of trained occasional teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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As schools across the province face a shortage of casual teachers, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation has rejected the government’s request to allow retired teachers to work up to 95 days a year.

For the past three years, a retired teacher could work up to 95 days before being hit with a pension penalty, intended to help school boards address a shortage of trained occasional teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

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That limit has now been reduced to 50 days a year, where it was before 2020-21.

The OTF, which represents more than 160,000 teachers in Ontario’s publicly funded schools, has refused to renew the agreement for the remainder of this school year.

“We all knew this was supposed to be a temporary emergency measure,” said OTF president Yves Durocher. “We reluctantly agreed last year, on the condition that an action table be created with recommendations on personnel issues.”

The OTF received a request from the province to renew the agreement on March 4, but rejected it. “If we accept this request, it will become the new normal,” Durocher said.

In some cases, schools are canceling classes or hiring “classroom supervisors” instead of teachers.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Says teacher absences have decreased since the height of the pandemic and their ability to fill positions has improved, but the board cannot ignore the short-term challenges it faces, spokesman Darcy Knoll said.

“Limiting school boards’ ability to replace staff with qualified retired educators and administrators further complicates this situation,” he said.

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Knoll said he did not have current figures on how many casual teaching positions were left vacant on average daily.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board had a daily average of 287 teacher absences across its 87 schools during the week of March 4-8, said spokeswoman Sharlene Hunter.

In 97 percent of those cases, the absences were covered by qualified occasional teachers or unqualified classroom supervisors, Hunter said. Classes that were not covered were canceled or combined with other classes.

In that week in early March, 71 per cent of absences were covered by qualified occasional teachers, and the rest by classroom supervisors. They tend to be college students or teacher candidates who have not yet completed teaching certification, Hunter added.

Tom D’Amico, education director for the Catholic board, said the board hoped OTF would agree to extend retirees’ availability to 95 days.

“While we understand that unions hope to see greater structural changes to bring more teachers into the professions, many of the issues being discussed are outside the control of school boards,” he said.

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In the meantime, boards are looking to increase the pool of unqualified classroom supervisors so that there are still adults present to address safety and supervision concerns if qualified teachers are not available, D’Amico said. “This is not a trained educator, but an emergency measure.”

If the OCDSB cannot cover an absence, it may need to temporarily cancel a class, Knoll said.

“These closures typically last one day and we are committed to giving parents as much notice as possible,” he said. “Fortunately, we have seen a significant decrease in these types of cancellations compared to earlier in the pandemic.”

Emergency occasional teachers are vetted and approved before they are hired and placed in classrooms, Knoll said.

The OTF decision is a setback for what could have been a much-needed temporary solution to a pressing problem, said Cathy Abraham, president of Ontario Public School Boards Association.

The refusal to allow retired teachers to work more days increases the need for stakeholders to come together and find long-term solutions, he said.

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“Throughout the pandemic, students endured unprecedented levels of uncertainty and instability. As educators and leaders, we owe it to them to prioritize their well-being and academic success,” Abraham said.

The reasons for the shortage of occasional teachers are complex. Explanations range from a retired exodus of teachers hired in the mid-1990s to the high cost of housing in urban areas.

Durocher said the OTF was still waiting for recommendations from the “teacher supply and demand action table” created by the province.

The action table includes representatives from school boards, unions, associations representing directors of education and trustees, the Ontario College of Teachers and faculties of education.

Despite adding nearly 3,000 teachers since 2018 and cutting certification deadlines in half, school boards are still expressing concern about high absenteeism rates, a spokesman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said.

“It is very disappointing to see the Ontario Teachers’ Federation oppose a common sense measure that was supported by front-line principals and has worked to ensure a continuous supply of qualified teachers remains in the classrooms,” the spokesperson said .

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Durocher said the TFO was still waiting to see the action panel’s recommendations almost a year after its first meeting.

“We were sounding the alarm before the pandemic to come up with a plan to recruit and retain new teachers,” he said.

There are 30,000 certified teachers registered with the Ontario College of Teachers who are qualified but do not teach, Durocher said.

“School boards are not bringing these teachers into the classrooms,” he said. “And my question is what is being done to attract and retain them.”

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