The Gleaner

Seeking balance in catch up plans

The New Frontiers School Board and its educational institutions are currently working out plans to ensure students catch-up on time lost to labour disputes in November and December. The government, which dragged its feet at finding funds for the public sector during contract negotiations, has dedicated $300 million to give students the help they need to get up to speed. It’s good that the government has decided to trust school boards and service centres to address student needs, rather than prescribe one-size-fits-all solutions. This approach will allow schools to tighten safety nets and ensure students don’t fall any further through the cracks.

It is obvious that student needs will vary between schools, within schools, and even between and within classrooms, so it is logical that those who know our students best take on this task. However, contracts have yet to be signed and meetings are ongoing to determine whether unions will accept the agreements-in-principle established with the government. This must be unsettling for school staff. Teachers and support staff are already working to ensure lost time is made up in their classrooms by adapting lesson plans to include only essential learnings for their courses. This must also be daunting.

Let’s be honest, schools and teachers can’t just “hurry it up.” Teaching, especially in math and sciences, takes time, as students learn sequentially. And a focus on essential learning in other subject areas may mean some interesting or fun aspects of a course get skipped over. A balancing act will be necessary to ensure teachers and support staff continue to engage students without becoming overwhelmed by their needs.

Éric Gingras, the president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec which represents federations and associations within the school network, including the Chateaguay Valley Teachers Association and the Syndicat de Champlain, laments the lack of consultation with personnel before the plan was announced. Gingras also cautioned that a catch-up plan for time missed over the last two months of the year should not be confused with a catch-up plan from the last few years. The need for improved student support services was already sky-high before negotiations began to drag last fall. Hopefully the government will consider this part of the equation as it calculates the resources required for student support going forward.
Sarah Rennie

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