Lambton’s public education director worries about staff student burnout

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John Howitt, Director of Education

Howitt says educators favoured keeping the status quo but that might not outweigh public health concerns

March Break moved to April 12

Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

Lambton’s public director of education is worried about staff burnout as the March Break is delayed.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce just Thursday March Break will be delayed until April 12.

“Many students have been learning remotely since the start of 2021. It is critical we follow public health advice to protect schools and avoid a repeat of the concerning spike in youth-related cases over the winter break, when students and staff were out of schools for a prolonged period of time.

“We are taking this precaution based on advice from health experts, including the province’s Science Table and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, to help protect against the emerging COVID-19 variants of concern,” said Lecce at a news conference.

“To keep schools open, we must keep them free of COVID-19. The actions announced today serve to limit opportunities for congregation,” he added. March Break is a traditional time for families to take vacations – including trips south of the border. Lecce says the province wants to avoid that.

“Our students have been working very hard… and our students are ready for a break. We’ve been talking a lot about their mental health, and that being at home was taxing on them. They weren’t at home on vacation. They were at home working and learning. There’s a difference.”

John Howitt, Lambton-Kent District School Board Director of Education

“Ontarians should refrain from traveling, particularly given the increase in new variants that pose a direct risk to our country. Please stay at home as much as possible and continue following the direction of public health officials so that we can keep schools open and protect our seniors, front line health workers and all families.”

John Howitt, Lambton-Kent District School Board’s director of education, speaking to The Independent before the announcent, says most educators wanted the March Break to remain in place.

“There’s a misconception that our students were off in January. Our students were not off in January. Our students and our staff were waking up in the morning and were in front of the screen and working hard as if they had been in school,” he says.

“Our students have been working very hard… and our students are ready for a break. We’ve been talking a lot about their mental health, and that being at home was taxing on them. They weren’t at home on vacation. They were at home working and learning. There’s a difference,” says Howitt.

“Our staff, similarly, have been going non-stop in trying conditions, and are also due for a break. Burnout is a real, legitimate concern.”

Howitt says most educators favoured leaving March Break the way it was.

“The minister has consulted… with unions, with the trustee groups, with the principal’s associations, with directors, who have pretty consistently suggested that there not be a change in the school year calendar. The minister did follow that up though by stating very clearly that this will be a public health decision, and that consultations – while powerful and important – may not overrule the advice given by the chief medical officer of health around the perception of whether or not March Break should occur.”

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