So far this school year, students in South Dundas attending publicly-funded schools have missed, on average, 10 days of school. Only five of those have been because of the weather. As Canadians, we expect our kids to miss some school time because of the weather. Bus cancellations are a normal part of school life. But during extreme winters, once that number climbs over a week, we start to worry how detrimental that time off school could be. This school year, parents and guardians have had the added bonus of five additional days off due to strike action by various education unions.
Although the strike action has varied between boards, students in South Dundas have had at least three days off school because of strikes, and many up to five days off. More strikes are planned, and all sides of the province-wide contract dispute have been unwilling to compromise enough to reach a settlement.
We have no idea how much time will be lost from the school year. Unlike many jurisdictions in North America, Ontario does not require lost school days to be made up.
All schools preach that regular attendance is a key factor in student success. When students leave for a longer vacation, or if students are off school due to illness, there is an expectation that the school work is made up. Learning doesn’t stop for vacations or sick time. Why does it appear to stop when contract negotiations need a push?
With the understanding that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom, the inconsistent and varied strike actions make it difficult for families to plan alternative arrangements. That applies pressure on the government to settle, but it doesn’t do much for student success. According to statistics from the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office, test scores for students have dropped in years where class time has been reduced due to labour issues.
So what about the kids?
Should the labour issues be resolved this school year, could classes be extended to make up for lost time? We think yes.
Losing time in the classroom may be considered by some as collateral damage in the battle between the province and the educational unions. Students learning in classes is the reason the education system exists in the first place. Student success should be the first goal for both sides, and not just an afterthought.