Students returned to class at East End Primary School on Tuesday, but the ramifications of a parent protest that shut the school down for two days last week will likely continue to ripple the educational waters for a while.
Parents, frustrated and angry that a qualified replacement teacher had not been found for East End Primary’s Year 5 class, refused to send their children to class last Thursday and Friday, effectively shutting down the school. The class’s regular teacher was removed nearly four weeks ago, following a complaint that was referred to Family Protection Services. Since that time, an assistant teacher had been filling in, despite requests by parents for a credentialed teacher.
“Everything is back to normal,” said East End principal Margaret Allison Greaves.
The East End Primary PTA held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the placement of the new teacher and whether it was a good enough solution for them to return their children to school. They had declined the Department of Education Services’ offer on Thursday to have a former principal and current senior school improvement officer take over the class.
Kenia McFarland, 30, who has one child in reception and one in year 2 at the school, said parents agreed to accept the new teacher.
“All the parents decided we’ll give him a chance,” Ms. McFarland said. “We’re hoping for the best now for our kids.”
Joy Boucher, 30, has a son in Year 3 at the school and said she was happy that he was back in class. She said she and other parents will be closely monitoring how things progress with the new teacher.
“We’re going to question and keep an eye on the kids,” Ms. Boucher said. “A few of the parents have decided they’re going to sit in on the [Year 5] class. We’re taking it one day at a time.”
The protest and school shutdown gained the attention of the Ministry of Education. During the Legislative Assembly’s budget session Friday, Chief Officer Christen Suckoo said the situation spotlighted an ongoing problem.
“There is not an adequate supply [of teachers],” Mr. Suckoo said. “We do struggle from time to time with that. One of the things we’ve been looking at is how do we expand the supply list?”
He said the ministry has looked at a number of strategies.
“One of the ideas we’ve had is to employ a group of teachers full time as supply teachers,” he said.
A call to Mr. Suckoo’s office on Tuesday to request more information on that particular idea was not returned.
Ms. Boucher said she was glad to see officials paying attention to the issue as a result of the parents’ action.
“I hope other parents in other districts, if they notice their kids are failing or they don’t have a qualified teacher, they need to let their voices be heard,” Ms. Boucher said, adding that such action would not necessarily involve shutting the school down. “I feel this will help other parents come out of that shell. If you don’t bring it to light, no one can help you. You have to join together as a community and a team.”
Ms. McFarland said she and others feel empowered.
“I’m so proud of the parents,” she said. “It took this much to get our message across. If we hadn’t done that, nothing would have happened.”