Staff at the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) can breathe a little easier.

Glen Hodgson, the president of District Four with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) says staff won’t lose their jobs because of the Widdifield consolidation process.

“If there’s ever any jobs that are at risk, it has to do with declining enrollment, or in the case of what our current situation is with the government, if they went forward with their decreases,” Hodgson explained. “Certainly not as a result of the school closure, that does not directly lead to job losses at all.”

Hodgson adds that West Ferris and Chippewa will be absorbing the staff, much like they were already with the students.

“The staff is relieved, but it goes past that,” Hodgson said. “Knowing the process, and knowing you will be keeping your job gives you a little extra reassurance, but the members (of the union) are excited about what is going to be happening at those two schools.”

“The programming is going to be even better,” Hodgson continued. “The extra-curricular will be better. The new staff will energize those buildings even more than they already are. They’re really looking forward to all the opportunities they are going to have in the new configuration.”

In terms of the agreement, NNDSB says it was developed to provide students and parents with a sense of security and comfort during the transition by knowing some of the teachers who will be moving with them.  The board adds it wants to ensure teacher staffing decisions are made in a fair and equitable manner throughout the consolidation process.

“Our focus remains on what is best for our students, teaching staff and school communities,” said Craig Myles, the Director of Education for NNDSB. “Providing our students with high quality and diverse learning opportunities requires the retention of qualified educators. We have been able to accomplish this by working with our union partners to develop a mutually beneficial teacher staffing model.”

“These transitions are always difficult, change is always difficult,” Hodgson said. “Whenever we encounter a school closing, of course, there is going to be angst and some difficult times, but the fact that the board was willing to engage my members, and engage the union and work side by side with us to come up with an agreement, it was the best we could.”

“We recognize it is not perfect, but it was the best we could to ensure continuity, stability in the system and set up a scenario where we can make it exciting for the possibilities,” Hodgson continued. “We’re really happy and it was gratifying to see the board and the union work together so well. It’s this type of cooperation that I look forward to encouraging in the future. We all should be working together to enhance and energize and do our best for our students and communities, and I think this is an example of what we can do when we work together and I am pleased.”

Hodgson adds that the staff is sad to leave Widdifield in September, however.

“The staff and students at Widdifield loved that school, and it is an amazing school, no doubt about that,” Hodgson stated. “We’re all sad that we have come to the point where this kind of thing has to occur, but at the end of the day, we know we are going to be doing a great job at the two remaining schools.”