Waterloo Region, Upper Grand, Avon Maitland school boards unsure if schools will be open Friday
Published Thursday, January 10, 2013 3:31PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:47PM EST
Officials with three local school boards say they’re following the lead of the Toronto District School Board and not deciding whether to close elementary schools Friday until late Thursday night.
The Avon Maitland District School Board, Upper Grand District School Board and Waterloo Region District School Board all say they’ll wait to hear the results on a legal challenge mounted against a proposed one-day teachers’ strike before making any final decisions.
Teachers had announced a one-day “political protest” at public elementary schools across the province Friday, but the provincial government appealed the decision to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, believing the action to be an illegal strike.
The OLRB is expected to render a decision Thursday evening, after which the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario will issue a directive to its members.
In a note sent to parents of elementary school students, the Waterloo Region board says it plans to close schools for the day unless the OLRB finds the action illegal.
“The OLRB must make this determination before we can confirm the status of elementary schools tomorrow,” reads the letter.
Waterloo Region school trustee Mike Ramsay says he’ll be introducing a motion calling on the province to reimburse families for the lost day of school at a Monday night board meeting.
At the Avon Maitland board, officials say the decision is “out of [their] hands” and they understand parents’ frustration.
“At the time of writing this letter, public elementary schools in Huron and Perth remain scheduled to be closed to students tomorrow, but that may change when the legal decision is announced later today,” reads the letter from Ted Doherty, the board’s director of education.
Waterloo Region District School Board executive superintendent Mark Schinkel tells CTV there are a number of scenarios that could play out.
“One is that a decision will get rendered in a timely fashion … at which point we will immediately, through every possible outlet, make known a decision of the school board to our community, and we urge parents to be monitoring the media and schools’ websites for a decision,” he said.
High school teachers with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation plan to hold their own one-day walkout next Wednesday.
Clarke Melville is a Kitchener lawyer with a background in labour issues. He says it will be difficult to prove that teachers are staging a political protest and not an illegal strike.
“This isn’t a general strike where unionized employees in every sector are expressing concern to the government, it’s one union expressing one concern,” he says.
Teachers are barred from striking under the controversial Bill 115, which the province says will be repealed as soon as the current dispute is over.
Bill 115 was also used to force new contracts on teachers earlier this month, a move which didn’t sit well with teachers or other labour groups.
“It’s almost like now the government’s saying ‘Well, the private sector has been doing a really good job of attacking pensions and wages and benefits of those workers, so let’s do the same with our public sector workers as well,” says Waterloo Region Labour Council spokesperson Steve Sachs.
“It’s a vicious cycle.”
If the OLRB sides with the government, individual teachers could be fined $2,000 each for following through with a walkout.