Ontario is nearly doubling the number of days retired educators are allowed to work in public schools, in an effort to address significant staffing shortages.
Retired teachers, principals, and vice-principals will now be allowed to work 95 days per academic year, up from 50 days, the provincial government said in a statement on Jan. 10, after reaching an agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF). The temporary measure will be in effect until June 30.
“We are seeing staff shortages impacting all sectors of the economy. Well before Omicron came to Ontario, school boards were reporting high rates of absenteeism from education staff,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in the release.
“We need staff in order to continue providing live teacher-led remote learning and safely operate our schools when students return to in-person learning.”
The province is also investing $304 million to enable the hiring of over 2,000 staff while expanding access to second-year teacher candidates.
The measures come as the projected shortfall in occasional teachers is anticipated to be 7,000 across all school boards, as reported by school boards in the Fall of 2021, according to the statement.
In a release, the OTF said it “does not expect that many retirees are interested in working in the current environment” but that the change may extend the number of days that some retirees choose to work.
The OTF also said that “more robust health and safety measures” in schools could incentivize more occasional teachers to make themselves available to the province’s public schools.
In an effort to increase the safety of teachers and students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education has said they will provide N95 masks “as an optional alternative for all staff,” as well as “accelerated access to booster shots for education and child care staff.” The province is also supporting school-focused vaccination clinics and ventilation improvements in schools.
Chris Cowley, president of the OTF, said on Jan. 10 that the decision to increase the number of days pensioners can work from 50 to 95 “is meant to alleviate, but won’t fix, the growing teacher shortage in this province” and that “asking retirees to fill the gap year after year is not a long-term solution.”