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High school teachers back in class with tougher schedules

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Fort High teachers returned to a different kind of school experience yesterday.

Now that they are teaching an extra half-course along with their previous six per year under Bill 74, being a high school teacher promises for some “interesting” times ahead, math/science co-ordinator Andrew Hallikas said Tuesday.

“[Yesterday] was chaos. Not only do we have teachers dealing with whole new classes but they’re quite possibly dealing with subjects they have no previous knowledge in,” he remarked.

With more than 60 teachers splitting duties with each other on a semester basis, and some teaching new courses such as Grade 10 Civics, teachers are “very stressed” already, teacher Duane Roen said.

“It’s very hectic. There’s no time for photocopying, or anything,” said Roen, who is teaching four classes--ranging from grade nine to OAC in both the math and science fields--this semester.

“[The extra class] takes away from your prep time for labs, for example, or any marking you may have to do. All of it has to be done before or after school,” he added, noting he’s expecting to spend up to three hours at work in the evening just to keep up.

But FFHS principal Ian Simpson said administration is working to understand and alleviate the unusual situation, and remains optimistic any problems can be solved.

“Obviously, our teachers are experiencing more pressure than usual with a heavier class load,” he acknowledged. “But our teachers are motivated to meet the kids the way they have every year.

“They’re positive, hard-working and, really, it’s business as usual,” he added.

But Ed Ojala, president of the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said he and the rest of the provincial union are still fighting to do something about Bill 74.

“It won’t be business as usual,” said Ojala, referring to the school year ahead. “It will be a stressful time. This increased time will burn out teachers and have a negative impact.

“But our teachers [are] back in class.”

Ojala has met with OSSTF reps in Toronto several times in the past few weeks. But besides asserting the unions are hard at work, he remained tight-lipped on any strategies they may be working on.

“We do want to inform people, particularly parents, of our situation. We are planning a pamphlet and an insert to tell them where we stand,” he noted.

Ojala added he’s also looking into whether the agreement made between the local OSSTF and the Rainy River District School Board in April, which protected teachers from the effects of the then-looming Bill 74, is salvageable despite going against provincial legislation.

“We’re trying to get some direction as to where the agreement stands,” he said.

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