The Ontario government has reached an agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) to almost double the number of days that retired teachers can work. 

Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce released details in a statement on Monday. The agreement with the OTF will increase the number of days that retired teachers can work from 50 to 95. It will come into effect June 30.

Lecce claimed school boards were reporting high rates of teachers taking days off even before the arrival of the Omicron variant. 

“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,” said Lecce. “That is why we have now secured an agreement with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation that will deliver access to thousands of teacher-qualified educators that will help keep schools open and safe.”

Lecce said Ontario is continuing to go beyond public health requirements by “providing non-fitted N95 masks as an optional alternative for all staff, accelerated access to booster shots for education and child care staff and are supporting school-focused vaccination clinics.” 

As with health care and other sectors, schools have lost significant numbers of staff due to vaccine mandates.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) put 95 permanent staff on unpaid leave for not disclosing their vaccine status in November. Another 609 occasional staff with the TDSB failed to disclose their vaccine status and have been put on unpaid leave. 

There are 1,016 additional staff who said they were unvaccinated and at risk of being put on unpaid leave. 

Ontario will be investing $304 million to hire more than 2,000 additional staff, according to Lecce. He added that Ontario will be increasing access to second-year teacher candidates. 

“Through enhanced ventilation and masking, more funding to hire additional staff, and new access to thousands of retired educators, we are helping to stabilize the workforce to ensure students receive the mental, physical, and academic benefits to support their learning,” he said. 

The shortage of supply teachers is expected to hit 7,000 across all Ontario school boards, according to data provided by the boards in fall 2021. 

Government figures show that about 40% of school boards have 25% of teacher absences unfilled by a supply teacher, and close to 20% of them report up to 50% of teacher absences being unfilled by a supply teacher. 

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