Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
The Collective Agreement between the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers Association (TECT), which was reached in spring 2018, had consequences for students and their parents in many Catholic schools.
The Agreement eliminated the extended day model which the schools had as a result of their International Languages programs. TCDSB decided that international languages instruction would now be provided for four classes per week instead of five classes, while day start and dismissal times also changed.
This triggered concerns on the part of parents and guardians about bus transportation schedules. These concerns have materialized with the beginning of the new school year for eight Catholic Schools in Toronto, including two Eastern Rite schools in Etobicoke: St. Josaphat Catholic School and Josyf Cardinal Slipyj Catholic School. After the school day schedule changed, bus transportation services have not always kept up with the changes.
One of the reactions to this situation reads (on the community Facebook page): “This is absolutely outrageous!!! Toronto Catholic District School Board should be ashamed for neglecting the children at JCS [Josyf Cardinal Slipyj Catholic School – NP-UN] school & SIX other schools! First the board took away 30min of learning and neglected to plan accordingly with the buses. Now the kids are sitting OUTSIDE with limited access to shelter and washrooms while waiting for the bus to arrive – in some cases [for] up to ONE HOUR after school finishes!!!”
Kevin Hodgkinson, General Manager with the Toronto Student Transportation Group, told NP-UN that the Group informed the School Board in June that it can not provide the service for all the schools according to the new schedule. The Group indicated that eight schools would continue to be serviced according to the last year’s schedules due to the lack of drivers. According to Hodgkinson, TCDSB indicated that it would add resources to those schools to manage the students at the end of school day, be it daily fitness or some other activities.
NP-UN’s sources have provided contradictory information as to whether TCDSB and particular Eastern Rite schools have provided students with suitable accommodations while they wait for the bus, taking into account weather and safety conditions. Several parents at the Josyf Cardinal Slipyj Catholic School have claimed that the students have been exposed to the heat and rain but the School’s principal, Anna Iwasykiw, assured NP-UN that the students have been and will be given proper shelter.
In her interview for KONTAKT Ukrainian TV, the current Toronto Catholic School Trustee – Ward 2 Etobicoke, Ann Andrachuk, said that she is pushing the Board to look for the solution and advised the parents, in particular, to escalate the issue to TCDSB’s Director of Education, Rory McGuckin, and to General Manager of the Toronto Student Transportation Group, Kevin Hodgkinson.
The candidate for the Ward 2 Trustee, Markus de Domenico, called TCDSB’s decision to change the International Languages program “last minute” and “very poorly thought-out”, and criticized it for not taking into account the bussing issue.
Kevin Hodgkinson (Toronto Student Transportation Group) told NP-UN that it won’t be until the New Year that the transportation companies will complete hiring and training additional drivers. This extra staff will allow the companies to change the routes and pick up the students at their schools between 3:00 pm and 3:20 pm.