The school network has reached its “breaking point”. In a rare warning to the Minister of Education, network managers warned this week that they are tired of surprise announcements that force them to turn classes upside down, after two months of flip-flops and two weeks at the end of the school year.
Depending on what The duty learned, school administrators sent a serious warning to Minister Jean-François Roberge after the announcement of the establishment of educational camps for vulnerable students, made hastily late Monday.
Our sources confirm that school board leaders also expressed their concerns to the minister. Before the outcry, Mr. Roberge turned around on Wednesday and announced that the catch-up camps would be optional. But in several schools, the invitations had been sent to parents. The search for teachers had started. And the staff’s energy reserves were zero.
“The latest announcement of educational camps really displeased everyone. It irritated us deeply. We would have liked to be considered, “said Hélène Bourdages, president of the Montreal Association of School Principals (AMDESS).
“I’ve never seen so many dissatisfied people,” said the representative from 620 principals and their assistants. They reached the limit of what they could do. I tell you: we have reached the threshold of disobedience. Our members said, “The next deal, I’m not doing it. I will save my skin ”. “
This is a rare public departure from school principals, who normally observe a foolproof reserve duty. But the directors would not have accepted that their representative remain silent.
School administrators are “exhausted”, having worked up to 70 hours a week, often seven days a week, to implement a series of directives announced by the Ministry of Education since the start of the pandemic : optional distance learning, then compulsory, preparation for the reopening of primary schools (with installation of plexiglass, arrows on the ground and moving furniture for the distance of two meters), then reopening only outside of Greater Montreal, opening of specialized classes for students with disabilities, management of emergency child care, organization of school transportation, hiring of staff to respond to last-minute directives, handling of complaints from parents, and so on.
“Some are making petitions; we arrested the minister. We listened to him. He didn’t understand how close we were to breaking even in the network. You have to stop the pirouettes, otherwise the machine will break, ”says Hélène Bourdages.
The latest announcement of educational camps really displeased everyone. It irritated us deeply.
Prepare for the next year
Minister Roberge’s office confirms that there will be no more new directives by the end of the school year, June 19. The watchword is to end the year and prepare for the fall back to school, despite the uncertainty surrounding the evolution of the pandemic.
“The education community is anxious for the year to end. The ministry needs to focus on the next school year, “said Steve Bissonnette, professor in the Department of Education at TELUQ.
This education veteran tells a joke circulating in the network: “Never apply a directive from the ministry, because in two days it will change. “
The crisis “undermined” the credibility of Minister Roberge, he said. “If I were Minister of Education, I would be worried. The perception is not favorable to him, rightly or wrongly. “
It is no coincidence that a petition calling for the resignation of Minister Roberge was launched this week, observers point out. As of this writing, more than 8,000 people have signed on.
Employees of the network are “at the end of the line,” and the most abused are school administrators, said Steve Bissonnette. “Decision-making is done in Quebec, far from the community. The department’s intentions are noble, but school principals and school board managers must do colossal work to implement these measures, “he said.
Sylvain Dancause, a high school teacher who maintains a benchmark blog in the education sector, notes that the network “has reached a breaking point this week. The wind blows from all sides and from all sides. The network takes two steps forward and two steps back. It wears out. “
These turbulences, however, arise at a time when distance education, in primary and secondary schools, is picking up speed. Teachers confirm that their students are adapting to online exercises. Teachers also learn to master the technology.
“My students are starting to get a taste for distance education,” says Luc Papineau, a high school teacher at a school in the Montreal area.
The road to achieving this relative comfort has been filled with obstacles. “The minister took a path filled with good intentions, but which were too complicated for what the machine can deliver. It created very big dissatisfactions. The parents asked us questions and we were annoyed to answer, ”he says.
Serge Striganuk, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Sherbrooke, highlights the unpredictable context of the pandemic. “With COVID, the scenarios change every day and even more than once a day. Having unanimous decisions in such a context is almost impossible. Could it have been better? Perhaps. Could it have been worse? Maybe also, ”he says.