Thousands of Ottawa kids shift to virtual learning as CUPE strike shuts down schools

Dylan Cayer is not too happy about missing school during the strike by education workers in Ottawa and across Ontario. 

“I’d much rather go to actual school. It’s kind of hard to believe,” the 11-year-old says. “When you’re at home, you don’t get that enjoyment. You don’t get the enjoyment of playing with your friends.: 

Dylan’s dad David supports the CUPE workers, but says it will be difficult to adjust to virtual learning again.

“Between him and his mother, yah, we’re going to have to adjust our work schedules, take time off work to ensure that he gets on Zoom and goes to his classes.” David Cayer said.

Many parents at CUPE picket lines in Ottawa on Friday say workers like educational assistants and custodians deserve more pay for the work they do.

“The pandemic has been brutal on everybody. We’ve all suffered,” says parent Dwayne Hodgson. “Our kids have gotten behind. But the reality is we’re not going to improve the situation for students without investing in the people who are working on their behalf.”

“Education workers are really standing up for all of us,”  parent Megan James said. “Labour rights are human rights and they shouldn’t be easy to take away. And the education workers right now are on the front line of defending labour rights.”

Other parents see the strike differently.

One writing online, “Forcing parents to stay home with their school-aged children while CUPE members walk off the job is inconsiderate. Should we use our vacation days to stay home? Maybe CUPE should pay our daily wages for forcing us to stay home.”

Another writing, “What about the parents that now have to miss endless days of work because CUPE can’t be the bigger people and keep negotiating and fighting to keep kids in school? Both sides need to shake their heads.”

Some students have mixed feelings about returning to remote learning, the reality for the foreseeable future.

“There are benefits to online school, as well as you know, frustrations,” Grade 7 student Mira Pasma-Hellman said. “Like for example, now I get to sleep in but it’s also going to be a challenge getting to learn.”

“Well, just in person, you can communicate more with other people and it’s just easier to do work when it’s not on the computer,” Grade 6 student Sacha Lafferty said, who already started virtual school as of Friday.

“We basically just kind of me up and then our teacher would tell us like you could do this and this. And then when we left the zoom call, we had to go do those things.”

Sacha’s dad David also supports CUPE and says if it means his kids have to learn at home, so be it.

“We were really glad when they were able to go back to in person learning,” David Lafferty said. “But we’re perfectly fine going back to remote learning if need be.”

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