TDSB closing schools for in-person classes Friday in light of proposed CUPE strike

There is uncertainty and concern as parents come to terms with the possibility of more disrupted learning as a possible CUPE education worker strike looms. Tina Yazdani reports.

By Lucas Casaletto

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the largest school board in the country, will not hold in-person classes on Friday as approximately 55,000 Ontario education workers prepare to walk off the job.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed with CityNews that all schools would be closed.

“As a result of this announcement, the board will have no option but to close all schools for in-person learning for all students on Friday, November 4, 2022,” the TDSB noted in a news release.

“Student supervision and safety are our top priorities, and without the important services of these school-based employees, we cannot guarantee that our learning environments will remain safe and clean for all students.”

The TDSB says that while there will be no in-person classes, third-party childcare operators in TDSB schools will remain open between 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Due to the strike action, the TDSB says all in-person continuing education classes are also cancelled.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) announced earlier in the day that its schools would be shut down if there was a complete withdrawal of services by the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Ontario School Board Council of Unions (CUPE).

“We understand that this news is difficult and may be the source of stress among families and their children, particularly after the circumstances during the pandemic,” wrote TCDSB’s Director of Education, Dr. Brendan Browne and Chair of the Board, Angela Kennedy, in a joint letter to parents and guardians.

“However, please be aware that the TCDSB does not control the decisions regarding the strike or its remedy as negotiations rest centrally at the provincial level.”

RELATED: What GTA school boards plan to do if education workers strike

The Peel District School Board (PDSB) and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) have yet to decide on whether classrooms will stay open, noting that both boards remain hopeful “that a resolution can be reached at the current negotiation impasse.”

“We understand not having concrete information is difficult for your family planning. We are monitoring the situation, and as it unfolds, we will share with you our next steps on a daily basis,” said PDSB Director of Education Rashmi Swarup.

The Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) announced late on Monday that schools would be closed to all students on Friday, noting that parents and guardians should not send children to school if there is a full withdrawal of services.

stephen lecce

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education for Ontario, makes an announcement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

The announcement comes the same day Laura Walton, president of CUPE, said whether workers continue to protest after Friday “will be left up to what happens.”

The Ford government introduced legislation to impose a contract on CUPE’s education workers — including librarians, custodians and early childhood educators — to avert a strike planned to start at the end of the weekday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said it was “regretful” to hear that CUPE plans to walk out from the job.

“It is certainly our intention that kids will be in school, we will pass a law, and obviously, I think there’s not a parent in this province who would be supportive of children staying home for even one day of the strike,” Lecce said.

The government continues to propose raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all others. Lecce said the new, four-year deal would give 2.5 per cent annual raises to workers making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent raises for all others.

CUPE has said its workers, which make on average $39,000 a year, are generally the lowest paid in schools, and it has been seeking annual salary increases of 11.7 per cent.

With files from The Canadian Press

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