LONDON, ONT. -- More than half of the principals across Ontario, from all school boards, are reporting levels of stress that are not manageable, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by People for Education asked principals across the province and all teaching models (in person, hybrid and virtual) how they were dealing with stress during the pandemic.

Annie Kidder, the executive director for People for Education says they survey educators every year, but this year they wanted to specifically find out how administrators were faring.

“How they were doing? How they ranked the major issues or challenges they were dealing with.”

The survey found the majority of principals disagreed with the statement, “My recent levels of stress at work feel manageable."

Virtual school principals were the highest number, with 57 per cent responding who either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

“It is incredibly an increasing, unmanageable load on them. They are doing it admirably, but they are doing it at a cost for their own well-being,” says Ann Pace, the president of Ontario Principals Council.

A principal herself in the York school board, she says there are too many unnecessary responsibilities and paperwork that are keeping them from focusing on the important facets of the job during the pandemic.

“You have to focus on the fact that right now it’s about ensuring that kids are coming to school. That kids are staying engaged when they are online learning, and that principals are able to support teachers whether they are in a face-to-face model, a hybrid or online”

At the London District Catholic School board, Director of Education Linda Staudt says with everyone focusing on keeping students and staff safe, it’s important to make sure all staff, including principals, are asking for help when it’s needed.

"There is so much goodwill, on everybody’s part. They all do want to help, and I think our message is, that if you need that help, reach out.”

The survey also forwarded several suggestions from principals who were surveyed to the provincial government on how they can improve conditions and take some of those stresses off the administrators.

Some suggested more planning time, or time to work with the teachers and support staff to co-ordinate a plan. Others suggested an education advisory task force be set up.

“That had all of the stakeholders at the table together, with ministry, people from health. So there was some sense of building some coherence and a plan that was a little more comprehensive,” Kidder says.

Many principals showed displeasure after learning about changes that were happening through media releases,  before hearing it from the board, and not having time to prepare for questions from parents and teachers.