Schools to close and switch to online learning as strike looms for Monday – Sydenham Current | Team Cansler

With another strike looming, local school boards are preparing to close schools and switch to online learning.

Schools are scheduled to close on Monday

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Lambton Kent District School Board director of education John Howitt said they have been notified that members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1238 will be joining their colleagues across the province in a legal strike , which includes a complete suspension of services to Ontario schools effective Monday, November 21, 2022 unless there is progress at the central negotiating table with the Department of Education and the Trustees Association.

John Howitt

“Student safety is the top priority for the LKDSB,” Howitt said.

“If the strike continues, CUPE employees will not report to work. In our schools and throughout our system, CUPE represents caretakers, educators, educational assistants, secretaries, library and computer technicians and other school-based and central staff. A full-scale strike would mean that none of these important supports for schools would be in place and the LKDSB would not be able to run our schools safely.”

Howitt added: “If no agreement is reached, all LKDSB schools will be closed to students on Monday 21 November 2022.”

Howitt said all secondary school students enrolled in in-person classes will transition to synchronous, teacher-led, distance learning on Monday, November 21, 2022 and for the duration of the strike action with full suspension of services.

Howitt said all students in elementary schools enrolled in in-person learning will transition to asynchronous learning on Monday, November 21, 2022, for the duration of the strike action, and to synchronous learning on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, with a complete withdrawal of services.

“Synchronous distance learning involves instructor-led, live online lessons,” Howitt said.

“Students receive instructions on how to transition to synchronous virtual learning according to their typical means of communication in school. The LKDSB Virtual Learning Program for Primary and Secondary will continue as planned, as will the off-site and online learning programs.”

Howitt encouraged people to check the LKDSB website up to and including Monday morning for updates on whether schools will be closed to pupils from Monday November 21.

“Please contact the school to discuss any concerns related to your child’s learning, including access to a device or reliable internet,” he said.

“Due to restrictions related to the complete withdrawal of services by CUPE staff, LKDSB devices may not be available to all students and other arrangements may need to be made to support continued student learning.”

Howitt said Thursday, Nov. 17, students should take home any personal items (e.g. glasses, medicines, etc.) or materials needed to participate in synchronous distance learning.

“We recognize that there can be a significant impact on your family,” Howitt said.

“Families are strongly advised to seek alternative childcare arrangements in the event of a strike. If you have any concerns about your child’s mental health and wellbeing, please contact the LKDSB Mental Wellness Team (MentalWellness@lkdsb.net) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free).”

Howitt added: “LKDSB hopes that a fair settlement can be reached and full-scale strike action avoided. We will provide an update for families, staff and students as more information becomes available. Visit the LKDSB website for the latest information on contract negotiations (www.lkdsb.net).”

Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson, director of education for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, sent a similar letter to parents on Wednesday.

“In St. Clair, the Catholic CUPE represents caretakers, early childhood educators, teaching assistants, library and computer technicians, secretaries and some corporate service administrators,” Johnson said.

“A complete withdrawal of services would mean that none of these vital supports are in place and the board cannot safely run our schools. The duration of a possible suspension of the services is currently unknown. However, St. Clair Catholic has plans and support for virtual learning for grades K-12.”

Johnson said that on November 15, 2022, parents received an email from the board with a link to a survey about whether their children needed technology for virtual learning.

“However, due to technical issues with one of our providers, the survey link was not working for some families,” he said.

“Parents who were unable to complete the survey should ask the class teacher to send the required technology home at the end of the day, Thursday, November 17, 2022; or parents attending a parent-teacher conference can take the technology home at that time.”

Johnson said on Thursday November 17, 2022 that students will bring home all study materials, i.e. textbooks/musical instruments/technology, required for distance learning.

“Personal items such as glasses, clothing and/or medication should also be taken home at this time,” he said.

“Starting next week there will be more opportunities for students/parents who need access to tech at school. However, schools will be closed to visitors on Friday 18 November 2022 as principals will lead PD sessions with staff.”

Johnson added: “On Monday, November 21, 2022 – In the event of a full CUPE shutdown of services, asynchronous learning opportunities will begin for all students. A live meeting with Google will be arranged. Teachers will provide more information.

Johnson said on Tuesday, November 22, 2022, in the event of a complete shutdown of services by CUPE, synchronous classes will begin.

“Regular school operations will be maintained,” he said.

“Participation is in accordance with Ontario regulations.”

Johnson said to provide small-group instruction, all kindergarten classes, which are normally staffed by a homeroom teacher and an Early Childhood Educator (ECE), will be split into two groups, with half the students being taught synchronously in the mornings and half in the afternoons.

“Contact your principal for more information,” Johnson said.

School teams involved in supporting students with special educational needs will continue to work together on behalf of the children, Johnson added.

“A collaborative approach between classroom teachers, program resource teachers, and board special education teams will support the student goals outlined in their IEP,” he said.

Parents who require technical assistance should contact their class teacher or the Help Desk at https://helpdesk.sccdsb.net/while parents whose children are enrolled in child care centers at school should speak to the child care provider about providing services, Johnson said.

“The St. Clair Catholic County School Board is committed to updating parents/guardians and staff as new information becomes available,” he said.

“Please continue to visit the Board website at https://newsdesk.st-clair.net/ for updates.”

Johnson added: “In the meantime, our prayers go out for a fair and just resolution for both parties in the dispute between CUPE education workers and the Ontario government. Should strike action continue, we will hopefully wait for our colleagues to return to their important work so together we can support St. Clair Catholic students and families in our classrooms.”

Education workers in Ontario must observe a five-day strike period

CUPE photo

On Wednesday, CUPE education workers announced a possible nationwide strike five days in advance.

CUPE officials say its Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) central bargaining committee, which negotiated for 55,000 frontline education workers, was able to strike a middle ground with the Ford government and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA ) to achieve through wages.

Despite these advances, the government has refused to invest in the services students need and parents expect, hastening this escalation, CUPE officials say.

“From the beginning, we have focused on improved jobs for educational staff and improved student services. For us, there is no one without the other,” said Laura Walton, Educational Assistant and President of CUPE-OSBCU, in a media release.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Ford administration has categorically refused to put any money on the table to provide students with the kind of learning environment they need.”

Walton added: “If this government was serious about their catch-up plan, they would listen to the workers who are doing most to support learners and they would put an early childhood educator in every kindergarten class and give more students the direct opportunity.” Support from a teaching assistant. We’ve heard from parents who are desperate for these improvements. We have felt their support in our protests across the province. And we will not turn our backs on students, parents and families.”

CUPE officials say education workers are fighting for guarantees for:

– Enough educational assistants so that all students get the support they need and schools could stop sending children home because no EA is available

– An early childhood educator in each kindergarten classroom so that every four and five year old has the play-based learning support that is especially needed now after two years of pandemic isolation

– Sufficient library staff to ensure school libraries are open and reading opportunities are available to children at all times

– Enough Wardens to keep the schools clean and enough maintenance workers and handymen to tackle the repair backlog

– Adequate staffing of secretaries in the school offices and sufficient supervisors in the canteen to ensure student safety.

Minister Lecce replies

Minister Stephen Lecce

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce took to social media on Wednesday to address the situation from the provincial government’s perspective.

“Our government has fulfilled our end of the deal by making significantly improved offers,” Minister Lecce tweeted.

“CUPE rejected all of these offers. Incidentally, they have put the province back on a strike course.”

Minister Lecce said they had offered to protect the most generous sick leave, pension and health insurance plan in Canada.

“CUPE turned it down,” he tweeted.

“We have offered to protect funds that have increased staff across the province and funded 1,800 education workers. CUPE refused. We’re sitting around the table ready to strike a fair deal that invests more in low-income workers and keeps kids in the classroom. It’s time CUPE answered yes and called off the strike. These children have endured enough of these strikes. 2,246 days without classes, since 1989 to be exact.”

We will provide more details as they become available.

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