Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, issued the following statement on Ontario’s agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) to nearly double the number of days a retiree can work:
“We are seeing staff shortages impacting all sectors of the economy. Well before Omicron came to Ontario, school boards were reporting high rates of absenteeism from education staff. We need staff in order to continue providing live teacher-led remote learning and safely operate our schools when students return to in-person learning. That is why we have now secured an agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation that will deliver access to thousands of teacher-qualified educators that will help keep schools open and safe.
“This is being done as we continue to make the teaching and learning environment as safe as possible. We went above public health requirements and are providing non-fitted N95 masks as an optional alternative for all staff, accelerated access to booster shots for education and child care staff, and are supporting school-focused vaccination clinics, and continue to make ventilation improvements in schools across Ontario. These measures are both part of our proactive planning to limit learning disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To support school safety, Ontario has invested $304 million which is projected to support the hiring of over 2,000 staff – while expanding access to second-year teacher candidates and nearly doubling the number of days retired teachers can work within our schools. Together, these actions will provide unprecedented access to more teacher-qualified educators and staff to keep students safe and learning.
“Through enhanced ventilation and masking, more funding to hire additional staff, and new access to thousands of retired educators, we are helping to stabilize the workforce to ensure students receive the mental, physical, and academic benefits to support their learning.”
At present, multiple school boards are realizing staffing shortfalls. The projected shortfall in occasional teachers is anticipated to be 7,000 across all school boards, as reported by school boards in the Fall of 2021. Almost 40% of school boards are reporting that up to 25% of their teacher absences were unfilled by an occasional teacher.
Almost 20% of school boards are reporting that up to 50% of their teacher absences were unfilled by an occasional teacher. 55% of school boards reported that they had to use temporary Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) certificates to help address staffing shortages.
Under the Ontario government’ agreement with the OTF, there will be a temporary increase in the number of days retired teachers can be re-employed in the publicly funded school system, from 50 days to 95. The agreement with the OTF, co-sponsor of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), will temporarily increase the number of days retired teachers, principals, and vice principals, and will be in effect until June 30, 2022.
Schools have been made safer for in-person learning thanks to $1.6 billion in resources for the current school year, ventilation improvements in schools across Ontario, including the deployment of 70,000 HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices, and stringent health and safety requirements.