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School board waives fees for parents helping with extra activities

A Toronto District School Board meeting.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Toronto District School Board has paved the way for parents to step in where teachers have pulled out from leading extracurricular activities such as school plays and clubs.

Trustees voted to waive permit fees for parents seeking to lead student activities threatened by teacher protests.

Schools have been forced to cancel field trips, plays and dances in the months since teachers stopped leading these activities in protest of the Ontario government's decision to legislate the terms of their contracts.

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Trustee Howard Goodman introduced the motion to waive permit fees as a way to support parents. Members of the public are normally charged a fee to use school space.

"This is small, symbolic way of saying thank you," he said.

Trustee Mari Rutka raised concerns that parents in more affluent communities would be better able to step in and help students.

"By conducting business in this way … we are actually supporting increasing inequities in our cities and in our schools," she said.

A motion to support principals in ensuring that proms aren't cancelled was withdrawn after staff revealed that 98 per cent of high schools had already committed to holding end-of-year dances.

"Prom is more than an extracurricular, it's milestone in people's lives," said student trustee Kourosh Houshmand.

Trustee Pamela Gough introduced the motion out of concern that proms might be cancelled if teachers decline to supervise.

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Principals have been working to find parents and volunteers to step in and supervise.

"It's been a really tough year for the principals," Ms. Gough said.

The issue of whether parents can lead student activities first arose in September when elementary students began training for regional cross-country meets. Parents became frustrated with the school board when it was decided at the last minute that parent-led teams would not be allowed to compete.

Teachers stopped voluntary activities such as leading sports teams and clubs in September after the Ontario Liberals and Conservatives joined forces to introduce Bill 115, legislation that imposed cuts to teachers' sick days and limited their ability to strike.

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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