Many teachers across the Greater Toronto Area are experiencing a very different Labour Day weekend this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has left significant parts of the return to school still undecided.
The risk of the novel coronavirus has delayed the start of school for thousands, with many going back into the classroom under a staggered start model, while thousands of others families have opted for virtual learning to minimize the risk of transmission.
Grace Di Liddo is getting ready to welcome back half of her Grade 9 students to the classroom Thursday and the long weekend before is a busy one. The special education teacher with the York Catholic District School Board is talking with parents, planning schedules and preparing for the new normal.
Even as the head of her department, Di Liddo told CTV News Toronto she only learned at the end of August her students, many with autism could be returning in-person full-time.
“We all have a level of stress because we have so many unanswered but we are doing the best that we can, we are keeping our students in mind,” Di Liddom who teaches at St. Brother Andre Catholic High School, said.
Toronto District High School English teacher Anne-Marie Longpré is also the head of her department and doesn’t have her teaching assignment for the year yet.
Longpré said because of the high number of students enrolled in virtual leaning, 20 per cent of the staff at her school were suddenly redeployed.
“I am at a loss. Not only is school pushed back a week until the 15th, I also have no idea what I’m teaching,” Longpré, who teachers in Thorncliffe Park, said.
Normally over the long weekend, Longpré said she would be finalizing lesson plans and be excited to meet her students.
In an effort to still prepare, Longpré is putting together resources and templates even though she doesn’t know what she’ll be teaching when school begins.
The risk of COVID-19 has also created uncertainty for teachers at the elementary level.
Typically a Grade 1 teacher, Erica Noronha‘s classes were set to start Thursday.
“I don’t have a class list, let alone know if I’m teaching virtually or in the classroom so it’s very hard to prepare,” Noronha, an elementary teacher with the York Catholic District School Board, said.
All the unease is not limited to being ready for work, as safety also remains top of mind for many educators.
“They have a right to be anxious, and they have a right to be concerned around not only their own safety, but the safety of the students they serve when they return into the schools,” Liz Stuart, the president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said Sunday.