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TDSB turning to supply teachers as it rushes to hire for online classes

TORONTO — Canada's largest school board is drawing on its pool of supply teachers as it rushes to meet a surge in demand for online learning.

TORONTO — Canada's largest school board is drawing on its pool of supply teachers as it rushes to meet a surge in demand for online learning. 

The Toronto District School Board said it hired 300 teachers Monday and was working Tuesday to bring on another 100 to 150 to fulfil its staffing needs for virtual elementary school classes.

The board anticipates the hiring will be complete in the next few days so the virtual classes can be set up by the end of the week, spokesman Ryan Bird said.

The board has "predominantly" pulled from its roster of occasional teachers, who have already been vetted, in filling those gaps, Bird said.

That list should be enough to meet the board's staffing needs, but if it isn't, the board could urge other teachers to apply to join the pool, he said.

"It is a challenge because we've taken a staffing process that typically takes months to complete and organize ... and we've really condensed that to two to three weeks," he said.

"Given the reality that we're facing right now and the changing information over the summer, we could not begin that as early as we had hoped, so the timelines have been quite tight, and then over the weekend it became abundantly clear that the numbers just weren't adding up."

The newly hired teachers can't immediately start their classes since — they need to be trained to use the board's online learning platform, among other things, he said.

The TDSB announced Monday it was again delaying the start of some virtual elementary classes as more students signed up for online learning.

It said while the online courses were set to begin Tuesday, some classes had not yet been assigned a teacher.

Students with no teacher assigned were expected to start off with independent learning.

The board said 60,000 students have signed up for online learning at the elementary level, and another 18,000 at the high school level. In total, about 2,200 teachers are needed for the elementary virtual classes and 800 for the high school ones, it said.

The latest employment survey conducted by the Ontario College of Teachers found that the province's decade-long teacher surplus has come to an end, with early-career teachers reporting very low unemployment rates in 2019.

"Teacher shortages are expected over the next several years that could reach well beyond the already challenging French-language shortages of the past few years," the report said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 22, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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