Though hoping for a successful outcome to labour negotiations between the province and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), the Algoma District School Board (ADSB) is preparing to close its elementary and secondary schools Wednesday if those talks aren’t successful.
The OSSTF announced Nov. 28 it will hold a "provincewide full withdrawal of services (strike or walkout)" on Wednesday, Dec. 4, if a new deal isn't reached with the government before then.
“We are hoping the negotiations will come to a successful conclusion sooner than later, but in the meantime we’re going to deal with what looks like is ahead of us tomorrow,” said Jennifer Sarlo, ADSB chair, speaking to SooToday.
The board sent notification to parents Friday of its plans should the union decide to hold a one-day strike.
“If a settlement were to be reached before now and tomorrow morning we would let parents know first thing in the morning through our board messaging system parents are signed up for (through email, text or phone number) and also through our website,” Sarlo said Tuesday afternoon.
If an agreement isn’t reached between the OSSTF and the province, the ADSB has stated it “will close all schools for all students on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 and that classes will resume again on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.”
“This means that parents will be required to make alternate arrangements for their children on Dec. 4...while we have explored every possible contingency plan to keep schools open, we simply cannot guarantee that our learning environments will remain safe for all students without the services that these school-based employees provide,” the board wrote.
A one-day strike would include all ADSB Secondary, Continuing and Adult Education Teachers (contract and occasional), all Educational Assistants (EAs), all Early Childhood Educators (ECEs), all secretaries/administrative office staff, all library technicians and all noon hour assistants.
Public high school teachers across the province started an administrative work-to-rule campaign Nov. 26 which includes not putting comments on report cards, not participating in standardized testing, and not attending certain meetings.
Elementary level teachers also started an administrative work-to-rule campaign last week.
The ADSB said third-party licensed childcare operators and Before and After Programs within its system will be permitted to remain open, however parents are asked to check with their childcare operator directly to confirm or for more information.
All community use of schools will continue, while all Adult and Continuing Education classes are cancelled.
Any scheduled school council meetings or school-based meetings, activities and sports are cancelled.
The OSSTF represents 25 Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (H-SCDSB) noon hour assistants, but in a news release issued Tuesday, Rose Burton Spohn, H-SCDSB director of education, wrote “in the event of a strike by OSSTF employees, all elementary and secondary schools belonging to the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board will be open to students on December 4, 2019.”
However, all scheduled athletic events at the H-SCDSB high school level will not take place Wednesday.
“The huge issue is class size caps,” said Sharon Indrevold, OSSTF Algoma District strike coordinator, speaking to SooToday.
“There’s been a lot of discussion of (Ontario Premier) Doug Ford moving it from 28 students per classroom to 25 (at the secondary level), but it really has a significant impact on classrooms and it still means job losses for our members,” Indrevold said, adding other issues include availability of courses for high school students and safe working conditions for educational assistants.
“We’re ready to bargain and get this job done...we’re all hopeful that we’ll get a deal by midnight tonight,” Indrevold said, adding it is too soon to comment on what the next step for the OSSTF will be after a one-day strike.