Total eclipse of the working relationship

Once upon time teacher unions and the Ontario government were falling in love, now they’re only falling apart.

That’s actually not even remotely accurate, the two sides haven’t seen eye to eye for decades-but that lead did provide a nice segue into an editorial about them arguing over a total eclipse of the sun.

On the surface it shouldn’t really be an issue. On April 8 around 3:20 p.m., the moon will pass between the earth and the sun, plunging a section of  southern Ontario (Hastings-Lennox and Addington included) into darkness for about four and a half minutes. Given the timing is right around the time a lot of students would be heading home for the day, the Limestone, Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District and Hastings Price Edward School Boards decided to move a PA Day scheduled for April 12 to now take place on April 8. A mere four days earlier, held on a Monday instead of a Friday. Staring at the sun is never a great idea-particularly during an eclipse. Though most adults understand the eye damage that can result of such action, that’s not as easy to impress upon younger students. With all the hoopla of talk about the sun, it would be only natural for young eyes to want to gaze up and see what all the fuss is about. The rare concurrence will make for great talking points in class and leading up to the event it could be a great time to kindle interest in science and the universe. Having students stay home during the actual event for an extra bit of caution seems reasonable.

The Ontario government has expressed some annoyance among school boards who have switched the PA Days however and has engaged in a war of words with school boards who desire having teachers work remotely that day. School year calendars are approved by the province each year, meaning they have the ultimate say on what days students are expected to be in class, and what days fall as PA Days. Rarely will all Ontario schools enjoy a PA Day on the same day. (As a random aside, would it really be that difficult to make Nov. 1 a PA Day? Parents, students and even teachers could probably all agree not having to send a little one to school the day after Halloween would alleviate a lot the stress of trying to drag young zombies out of bed who stayed up too late the night before and are loaded up on sugar).

Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce has said closing schools on April 8 would be ‘unfair’ to working families. And it’s a valid point, finding daycare for virtual days can be a pain.

Ultimately however this feels like just another thing for the two sides to bicker about as they attempt to score points in the battle of public opinion. The issue really shouldn’t be all that complicated. Instead of embracing a rare cosmic event, it’s being seized as an opportunity to further fracture the working relationship between teachers and the province.

-Adam Prudhomme

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