Tired parents call for boycott of online classes as province switches to virtual learning to fight COVID-19


There is growing evidence that parents are fed up with online learning in Ontario, with some calling for boycots and “parent strikes” as the province moves to virtual classrooms for the third consecutive school year.

Whether they’re trying to send a message to the Doug Ford government or just keep households sanitary, a number of parents are telling CBC Toronto that when the virtual bells ring on Wednesday, their kids won’t be in front of the screen.

“We’re just not going to be part of a mandate that no longer makes sense to us,” Angie Tingas, a Toronto mother of four, said in an interview. She was responding to Premier Doug Ford’s announcement on Monday that the province was moving online courses for at least two weeks as part of the province’s efforts to slow the spread of the highly transmissible variant Omicron.

While Ontario has relied more on distance learning than other jurisdictions, those calling for a boycott say the situation is different this time around.

A poster created by an Ontario mother calls for a “parent strike” in response to the government’s return to virtual school. (Melisa Mariutti)

Many parents were hoping that COVID-19 vaccines – over 85% of eligible Ontarians are fully immunized and more school-aged children join this group – and other preventative measures, including filtration systems. air, would keep their children in school all year round. This is especially important, several said, given the potential damage school closures cause to children, something that is seen firsthand in many households and increasingly studied by experts.

Last year didn’t go well for Tingas and her children, and she informed their schools earlier this week that they would not be logging in for the virtual classroom.

“I feel like this is the only way for parents to tell the government that we don’t agree with this closure,” Tingas said.

“Parents’ strike”

Melisa Mariutti, a mother of two from Hamilton, will keep her children out of distance learning and she is trying to persuade others to do the same by creating and sharing posters online calling for a “parent strike.”

“This is an opportunity for e-learning not to happen during these two weeks to show the government that we are serious. It hurts us. It cannot happen again,” said Mariutti.

Melisa Mariutti and her two daughters. The Ontario mother is refusing to enroll her children in distance learning this week. (Melisa Mariutti)

“We told our son he didn’t have to,” said Laura Jamieson, mother of two in Orangeville. “It’s his choice.”

Jamieson says distance learning has been a struggle last year not just for her 10-year-old, but for the whole family.

“Every five minutes I was shouting, ‘Connect, you’re supposed to be online!’ We were at loggerheads. Everyone was yelling at each other constantly, ”Jamieson said.

Parents, especially those with younger children, say it can be difficult to facilitate learning outside of the classroom structure, without the authority of an in-person teacher, and in a full house. TVs, toys, siblings and other distractions.

They say an easy-going approach allows children to step away from the screen after they are present, while being too bossy leads to conflict and stress for the child, parents and others in the home. .

“You ask a lot,” said Tingas, who doesn’t think it’s healthy for a parent to take on the daily role of a strict school teacher.

“We’re not those parents anymore. We’re not just going to yell at our kids to do what they’re told. No one is going to slap their kid for not being connected. It’s not this generation,” a- she declared.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks at a press conference as Education Minister Stephen Lecce listens at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

The Ontario government says it recognizes what families are going through.

“We know that parents and students face great challenges in navigating this global pandemic,” Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce, wrote in a statement to CBC News.

The statement notes that the government’s goal is to get students back into the classroom. For those struggling with distance learning, academic and mental health supports have been extended.

None of the parents who spoke to CBC Toronto have any plans to give up education altogether. Some will follow their own classes and schedules, while others say they will spend more time outdoors and focus on physical activity.

Dr Ripudaman S. Minhas, developmental pediatrician at Unity Health Toronto, explains that whether or not children participate in online school, it is important for parents to help them adjust to their needs.

“We are moving from really rich in-person learning environments to distance learning or virtual learning. The impact on students can be very different. It depends on their age and level of development, their mental health, ”Minhas said in an interview. .

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