These days around here, we’ve been watching updates from the province almost daily. It’s nice to see that they’re making an attempt to keep us informed and the “Ford Shuffle” is kind of entertaining. It’s also sad that that’s what passes for entertainment these days.
Yesterday was a double-header. The Premier was in Essex County and sharing a news conference with the Mayors of Essex County Communities and the Mayor of Windsor. He kept referring to the area as Windsor-Essex which, to the best of my knowledge, is not a thing. Chatham-Kent, yes, but here we still have towns, a County Council, and a city. It’s perhaps a small thing to someone from the rest of the province but it’s what we are. He did address a couple of locally important things – widening of Highway 3, construction of the new hospital where the location is at dispute – a group of Windsor people want it downtown, others want to build at the edge of the city and be accessible to all, and the building and bridges initiative. He did recognize the importance of the auto and farming industries so that was comforting. He was surrounded by Conservative MPPs but not by our representative Taras Natyshak. Besides political differences, a recent blowup between the two would ensure that they’re not on each other’s Christmas cards list.
The mayors were invited to introduce themselves at the microphone; my wife was impressed that I knew them all by name and Gary McNamara our current Warden introduced himself and position and past Warden Tom Bain introduced himself as having the Warden position. There were good questions from those who were recognized from the media but the Premier kept mentioning that the Minister of Education would be announcing great things later in the afternoon. My wife asked why he wasn’t there; my guess is that it was a way for the Premier to not answer any questions and not have to keep saying “I’m going to turn it over to the Minister”.
So, we turned in again later to watch the Minister of Education and the Chief Medical Officer give us an update. We were hopeful that the good things might indicate a delay to opening schools, or a staged return or something. That wasn’t to happen.
The Minister indicated that school districts were going to be allowed to dip into their reserves, if necessary for a number of things. Flexibility is the buzzword, passing the buck to local districts. The reserves are like a rainy day fund that you might have. If ever there was a rainy day, this has to be it.
There was a direct instruction about how much actual face to face time was needed for remote learning (PPM 164). I kept thinking – “Digital Natives, kids love computers, they’re really going to love 180-225 minutes of it daily.”
To ensure that these teachers would commit and follow through, school districts were going to be able to hire principals to ensure it happens. Did I really hear that?
Funds will be available to make sure that HVAC systems are up to date. (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) Shouldn’t that be done as regular maintenance anyway? Who’s going to do this – contractors are building new seniors’ homes, aren’t they? I know of some schools where teachers would just be happy to have windows that open.
Then, the comment.
It didn’t go unnoticed; as I was putting together #FollowFriday lists this morning, it was seemingly on everyone’s timeline.
Imagine sitting at home waiting for a decision to bring an insightful attention to a provincial concern and instead hearing that your union had instructed you to do the bare minimum.
My wife turned to me and asked “Did he just say what I thought he said?”
Social media exploded almost immediately. I had been watching the news conference on CP24 and Harvey Bischof was interviewed right afterwards. You could tell that he could barely contain himself. Teachers everywhere were outraged and the hashtag #SafeSeptember went crazy.
In Ontario education, it wasn’t a good day. So many comments flooded about how the Minister doesn’t understand what it’s like in the trenches. To be fair, it’s brought on my education. Sure, there are school visits but they’re done to new schools with new technology, they show up well after the chaos of school day opening and are escorted to a nice big library and then the best of kids show their skills. We all know that there are many sides to education. They never make the six o’clock news.
A real story would be to have the Minister have breakfast with a student, wait in whatever weather was happening for a bus, do the jerking stop and start until full, de-bus and go to the school yard, line up at the bell, march in line to the classroom, enjoy the endless morning announcements, do some DPA and mathematics, and then go to that nice big library.
There was a real opportunity yesterday to prove to the public that the reopening of schools plan was indeed flexible and responsive to realities as they are exposed. The Premier and the appropriate Ministers could have been together and showed that they were listening and amend the plan to show that they were responsive and sensitive to everyone’s needs.
Instead, things were just made worse. I know that “upset” isn’t the word that crosses most people’s minds as a result but I like to keep the blog at least PG.