Staffing shortage could close Ottawa schools; parents told to prepare
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's largest school board is dealing with a staffing shortage and they're telling parents to be prepared.
Late Friday, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) sent a letter to parents outlining how the board has been managing COVID-19 cases. One item that stood out for some parents was a highlighted section telling them that they should "be prepared for the possibility of school closures" if the board does not have enough staff available.
"This is the first time our board and a number of boards in Ottawa have been very clear if the staffing situation does not change over the next few weeks and months we could be in a situation where we have to close schools," OCDSB Trustee Mark Fisher said.
It has been two weeks since children returned to the classroom in Ontario and anxiety among parents and students persists. Provincewide, the total number of cases of COVID-19 continues to creep up, with at least 238 positive test results. Nearly 200 schools are reporting at least one student or staff member with the virus.
At least eight schools in Ottawa are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, which means the virus spread within the school.
The OCDSB is not the only board dealing with a teacher shortage. Other boards in Ottawa are in the same situation.
The Ontario College of Teachers has warned there is a shortage of certified teachers across the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter sent to former and retired teachers, the college asked people to reinstate their memberships and return to work to help provide relief in the classroom.
Beckey Erb, a parent of four, understands the difficulties when dealing with COVID-19 but hopes the schools will stay open. She depends on them for support and thinks the best place for her children is in the classroom.
"I know there is the online option but I just read that they are even short teachers and they are going to have to close down some of those as well," Erb said. "I've got four kids; three are in school. My oldest has autism. Being in the school setting is the best overall even with the pandemic."
Trustee Fisher acknowledges parents could be put in a difficult situation if schools start to close but the board is working hard to make sure they stay open.
"As a parent and trustee I want to see the continuity of learning, I think we have to be really creative about how we staff some of these positions," Fisher said. "I think if we want our schools to remain open we need the talent to be able to do that, we need to think outside the box."