CBE online teacher wonders why they have to work in schools

ByMike V. Cooper

Dec 9, 2020

A teacher at the Calgary Board of Education’s Hub Online School says her day-to-day working conditions at her school add to the already stressful work of teaching virtually.

The elementary school teacher, who CBC News agreed not to name because she fears professional reprisal, said she and other teachers at Hub are, for the most part, required to travel to their schools to work.

“What we thought we would do was work in our own classrooms. But in the end, we were placed in smaller classrooms that were closer to each other,” she said. .

Since the start of school, she said, she has shared a room with two other teachers at the Hub using cardboard folds to separate.

“It’s like a room that doesn’t have windows where we are all crammed together, three of us in one space, and we try to teach at the same time. It has been a challenge,” he said. she declared.

Meanwhile, there are classrooms in his building that are empty.

“I just feel like sometimes we’re extra bodies in a school,” she said. “I can work from home one day and the rest of the time I’m at school.”

No one from the CBE was made available for an interview, but in an emailed statement the council said it couldn’t say which physical spaces the Hub’s teachers are working on, as this is specific to the school to which the Hub classes are attached.

“School staff continue to adhere to all sanitary measures, including wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing,” he said.

“Our schools are safe. Despite the number of positive cases in our communities, school transmission continues to be low.”

The CBE said managers are encouraged to reduce or eliminate as much in-person interactions between staff members as possible, including ensuring that all staff meetings are virtual.

“Staff are encouraged to follow all health protocols to continue to reduce the risk of transmission. Since most students are currently not on site at many of our schools, this should help ensure that staff can maintain physical distance at work. “

Additionally, the CBE said all school staff, not just teachers at the Hub, work from the school.

“Having school staff working in schools helps ensure the continuity of learning, provides access to other colleagues, IT and administrative support and transparent coverage of teaching hours,” he said. -he declares. “All schools are open and all health measures continue to be in place. We want to make sure families have the option to request appointments or get in-person support. “

The teacher said she was only allowed to work from home one day a week after explaining to her supervisor that it improved her mental health and work.

She said the irony of the situation is that while parents have enrolled their children in Hub to prevent them from being exposed to COVID-19, one of the teachers she shares an office with has a supported job unknowingly while still being positive – forcing the three teachers to self-quarantine.

“At first, when I thought I had been placed on Hub, I thought, ‘one of the benefits would be that I won’t have the same exposure as the classroom teacher.’ Yes, that’s definitely a thought that went through my head, ”she said. “And then when it was’ you work at school, ‘I thought,’ well, then, it’s inevitable that I’m going to isolate myself because of the rate of school cases happening in our city. “”

And when she had to self-isolate, she said, working from home was a breath of fresh air.

“When you really only have yourself to focus on, the rest of the vibrating stress of the school environment that you feel is not attached to you in the same way,” she said. “You can just think about your classroom, your needs and your space and a little more your own environment. It’s quieter, more comfortable. “

I just feel like sometimes we are extra bodies in a school. We are used for supervision and for creating online content for classroom teachers.– Hub teacher working at school

The CBE said most of the Hub’s teachers worked in schools, as many of them collaborated with other Hub teachers within the school, and also contributed to school-based supports such as teaching. supervision of students, team meetings and professional development, which require them to be in the building.

But, said the teacher, in her experience, collaborating with other teachers at the Hub is done online anyway.

“If you think of our lives at Hub, [there is] basically one teacher per level, you are the only one. If you collaborate, you collaborate with teachers who are not from the school you are in. You might be collaborating with people on Zoom or online, ”she said.

“I just feel like sometimes we are extra bodies in a school. We are used for supervision and for creating online content for teachers in the classroom, which I am more than happy to help them out. to do, because they also have their own challenges in trying to provide online material for children who cannot be in school. “

The CBE said teachers at the Hub who have been approved for medical or family status accommodation have been working from home since the start of the school year.

“If individual circumstances change, the process for reviewing and approving accommodation requests remains available,” he said.

If a Hub teacher working at a school is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been identified as needing to self-isolate but still feels well enough to work, the CBE has said he could work from home.

The teacher said she would like to see more flexibility in the Hub teachers working from home.

“What would help is if we had more options to work… instead of a day at home, maybe about 50% of the time at home,” she said.

“There are times when we need to be there, with our staff, and that makes a lot of sense, but I just don’t think we necessarily have to be there Monday through Friday.”

Senior Superintendent Bryan Szumlas of the Calgary Catholic School District said his online staff also continue to work in schools.

“This is our message to not only our teaching staff, but also our support staff,” he said.

“The rationale for this decision is… # 1, all of our schools remain open… the second point is that all of our schools are safe. There has been very limited transmission related to the spread of COVID in our schools.”

Szumlas said having staff in schools also ensures continuity of learning.

“When we think of March and June, we had a lot of staff who had difficulty accessing the internet, and it also costs money for internet access. It can be provided for free in our schools.” , did he declare.

“We have our administrators in our schools as well as IT support to help our teachers work in an online environment, and we also have transparent teaching schedule coverage. “

Szumlas said the Catholic District has learned it can keep schools safe.

“Our teachers are going to work in their classrooms with no students in the classroom,” he said. “They’re pretty much safe if they’re isolated in their classrooms doing this job with maybe one or two support staff visiting them.”

In an emailed statement, Alberta Education said local school authorities, as employers, are responsible for decisions about whether staff continue to work at school or work from home.

“The decisions and approach of school authorities must continue to follow occupational health and safety as well as provincial health measures,” said Acting Press Secretary Nicole Sparrow.