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Teacher shortages see some Ontario high school students awarded perfect grades on midterm exams

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Students at a high school in York Region have been awarded perfect marks on their midterm exams in three subjects – not because of their academic performances however, but because they had no teacher.

On Tuesday, York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) confirmed with CTV News that it had given pupils at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School in Aurora, Ont. perfect marks on exams in two biology classes and one business class.

"These classes have not had a permanent teacher for much of the semester due to a shortage of teachers specializing in the subject area, a spokesperson for the board told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.

"This situation is rare at the Grade 12 level," the spokesperson said, adding that the board is "confident" it will find replacement teachers soon.

The move comes as schools across Ontario continue to grapple with staffing levels. In its 2023-2024 Annual Ontario School Survey, People for Education found that 24 per cent of elementary schools and 35 per cent of secondary schools report facing teaching staff shortages each day.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce called the situation “unacceptable.”

“Kids need to work hard in order to be assessed on their achievement,” Lecce said before calling on the Ontario Teachers’ Federation to allow retired teachers to fill absences, short-term.

“We are calling for retired educators — who have decades of experience — to be leveraged to fill those exact circumstances so qualified teachers could be in the classroom and restore some stability for those kids,” the minister continued.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said York Region’s Catholic school board's decision serves as an example of the “appalling state of education in this province after six years of Doug Ford’s government.”

“This isn’t about the teachers’ unions or the Ontario Teacher Federation. The Premier and the minister need to need to take some responsibility here and be accountable for this mess," she said at Queen's Park on Monday.

“We don’t have people who want to work in our schools, and we have people leaving at record rate because of this government’s disrespect and lack of resources in education.”

In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education said that personnel decisions such as recruitment and retention fall under the jurisdiction of school boards.

In an effort to assist boards in alleviating the crunch, the province says it has taken a number of steps, including reducing the amount of time to process teaching certification applications, permitting students in regular, full-time education programs to work in schools while completing their studies, and developing a Teacher Supply and Demand Action Table, tasked with developing a set of recommendations to improve recruitment and retention. 

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