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'Reaching their breaking point': Teachers, some parents decry March Break postponement

However, one Newmarket parent is 'estatic' about the province's move, hoping it will prevent families from gathering, travelling

The province's decision to postpone March Break until mid-April has undoubtedly been met with mixed reactions, with many teachers, students and parents against the idea, while others, like Newmarket parent Laura Stratton, are very much in favour. 

"I think it's great. I am ecstatic about it," said the mother of two students. "No one should be travelling or gathering right now, and I think that's what would happen over March Break. I don't think people would be able (to resist) gathering with other families."

"The numbers are going down, and I've been pretty neutral on the whole COVID-19 thing. But now is not the time. Kids are just going back to school on Monday."

Another local mother and education activist, Shameela Hoosen-Shakeel, agrees that the move is likely intended as a way to quash any travel plans people might have, but unlike Stratton, she finds that reasoning problematic.

"I want (Education) Minister Lecce to release the modelling data showing that postponing March Break for public school students (but not for private school students) will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19," said Hoosen-Shakeel.

"This decision was not based on thresholds or any meaningful thought for the physical and mental health of students and education workers, many of whom have been working very hard and are in desperate need of a break sooner rather than later. It was based on curbing travel plans."

Local teachers unions officials say the Ford government is trying to make politically driven decisions seem as if they were supported by public health science.

"This just continues a pattern with this government, from our point of view, where they come out with these statements, and even if they consult with unions and other stakeholders, and they just go in another direction. All the unions are unanimously advising against this," said Darren Campbell, York Region president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

"Then they say the chief medical officer supports this, which seems dubious. The data the minister shares is incomplete, and they are biased in their approach.

"We know that the sharp increase in positivity rates that he attributes to the winter holidays that he is using as a rationale for keep kids in class during March Break does not match the science. It was spiking before the holidays, which means it was tied to kids being back in school."

Whether widespread community transmission is taking place inside schools has been a point of contention between educators and the government for many months, with the government insisting there is no significant evidence to show that and teachers saying there is. 

For frontline teachers such as Blair Vowels, who teaches at a Georgina high school, there is also the problem that education workers and students are on the verge of mental collapse from the unprecedented pressures they are under. 

"Education workers have been working non-stop to make this year go as smoothly as possible for students and they, too, need a break," Vowels said.

"As a resource teacher and special education teacher, my job is to support and check in on students, and I can tell you that students are also reaching their breaking point. Everyone needs time to refresh, and that time is right now. To wait for another month for it is a long time."

But Stratton said teachers and students aren't the only ones under a lot of pressure, and teachers should be more flexible and do their jobs. 

"Do I need to be in lockdown for 10 more days with my kids right now when I'm working from home?" she said. 

"I feel that teachers are being inflexible. They didn't want to go back in September, they didn't want to teach last year online, they didn't want to go back after Christmas, they don't want their March Break gone. They don't, they don't, they don't. So guess what?"

If they don't like it, said Stratton, then maybe it is time to look for a different field of work.