Staffing levels for educational support workers are at "crisis" levels, according to the president of the bargaining unit that represents those employees within the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.
Tyler Campbell represents nearly 900 educational support staff employed by the Greater Essex County District School Board, including educational assistants, developmental service workers, child and youth workers, early childhood educators and sign language interpreters.
He said the situation is reaching a "dire" point.
There are 30-40 openings within the board for part-time support staff positions — staff that fill in when full-timers are away.© Jason Viau/CBC 'They go to different schools Monday through Friday, dealing with different children, dealing with different needs, dealing with different behaviours, all to be paid $18 an hour,' says Campbell.
And those openings are affecting about 25 kids who may now be getting their supports from a worker already assigned to other children.
"They're being stretched out throughout the schools. They're being burnt out," Campbell said.
'In it for the students'
David Lucier, an educational assistant of 22 years who works at LaSalle Public School, said these problems started to get worse in the last couple of years.
"In years past, we had confidence that if we called in ill, that we would have a replacement," he said. "Just in the last couple of years … you don't have that confidence anymore."
All of this has been compounded by the pandemic.
"A lot of people are unaware of the fact that we have been working through the entire pandemic in schools, in special education classes," he said. "And usually we work in conjunction with students that cannot be masked at all times and we cannot maintain a six foot distance from the students."© Jason Viau/CBC David Lucier, an educational assistant at LaSalle Public School, says full-time support staff don't have confidence they will be covered in the event of their absence.
He said workers like him face violence at a "high rate" so an already stressful job becomes even more difficult when you aren't at full staffing levels.
"So we have to take up the work of those people who are missing," he said. "And so it becomes an issue when I can't fully support the students that I'm with because I have to go help with students that need assistance elsewhere as well."
The staffing shortfall also means workers are being asked to take on multiple jobs in one day, where an educational assistant may be asked to take on the usual duties of a developmental support worker and an early childhood educator in the same shift.
"We're trying to fit the needs of the system right now," Campbell said. "They go in every day looking to make a difference, and right now, we're just looking to survive."
Causes of the problem
Campbell said there are several reasons for the staffing issues.
First, the number of children needing supports has grown, but the number of staff has not.
He also pointed to compensation and the fact support staff at the public board make less compared to other boards, even locally.
Supply educational assistants are offered $18 per hour with the public board, but with the Catholic board he said those same workers are offered $25 per hour.
"It's hard to retain and recruit anybody for the amount of pay," Campbell said. "They go to different schools Monday through Friday, dealing with different children, dealing with different needs, dealing with different behaviours, all to be paid $18 an hour."
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/more-educational-support-workers-needed-to-fix-staffing-crisis-within-public-schools-union-says/ar-AAPWKgG859