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Near North high school teachers to hold another one-day strike on Wednesday

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High school teachers with the Near North District School Board are joining colleagues from eight other boards across Ontario this Wednesday and withdrawing services in a one day strike.

The walkout is to protest contract talks with the province.

Glen Hodgson, the President of the District 4 Teachers Bargaining Unit with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), says Wednesday’s walkout includes support workers like the Education Assistants and Early Childhood Educators.

The walkout means the Near North board will keep its high schools and elementary schools closed on Wednesday.

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The elementary schools will close because even though they are not part of the labour dispute, some of the support workers are represented by the OSSTF and will not be available to offer services in the elementary schools.

Hodgson says the boards involved in the one day strike are spread across Ontario.

Hodgson says class sizes and mandatory e-learning remain major issues in the labour dispute.

Hodgson notes that although the Ford government has moved somewhat on the issue of average class sizes, the number is still a danger to public education.

“Any movement they’ve made has been on their already unacceptable position,” he said.

“So now instead of saying we’re going to increase class sizes a lot, they’re saying we’re going to increase class sizes quite a bit.  They modified their position but they haven’t met us in terms of our expectations.  Just simply modifying your already bad position is not a step forward in collective bargaining.”

The provincial government first proposed increasing the average class to 28 students before reducing that number to 25.

Hodgson says the OSSTF maintains the original average number of students per class of 22 must be maintained to preserve public education.

Hodgson says creating larger class sizes not only results in teachers being laid off, but it also results in fewer course options for students.

On the issue of e-learning Hodgson says the Ford government is trying to paint a picture that the high school teachers oppose the concept.

He says nothing could be further from the truth.

“Several of my members already offer it,” he said.

Hodgson says what the OSSTF opposes is the government move to have four mandatory e-learning credits, which he adds would be the highest number of e-learning credits in North America.

Hodgson says what high school teachers in the Near North board and across Ontario want to see with e-learning is that it’s done appropriately so it’s successful for students who take “classroom” instruction in this way.

Hodgson says e-learning for some students is simply “not a good option for them.”

“And them being forced to take it would not be good for their overall education,” he said.

“We want e-learning taught by qualified teachers who are there to support the students in the e-learning environment.  We know if you don’t have that, the success of the students will be dramatically affected.”

Hodgson says the teachers’ federation claims the government’s e-learning plan is designed to save money.

He says there’s a major concern that the government wants to take e-learning out of the hands of the teachers and carry out this kind of instruction by private enterprise.

“My members know how to do e-learning and know how to do it right,” Hodgson said.”

“It needs to be done in the proper environment with the right educators and it has to be the right fit for the students.”

When the question of mandatory e-learning is raised at the Near North level Hodgson says the government is not able to answer simple questions like how all the students will be able to access the internet and how will they be able to access the devices.

Hodgson says the OSSTF can accept changes if they are good for the students and public education.

“But that’s not what this government is doing,” he said.”

“Their changes are designed to do one thing and one thing only and that’s to destroy public education and save money for their wealthy donors.  Our position is designed to protect public education and we’re sticking to that.”

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