The president of Algonquin College is warning students that even though negotiations to end Ontario's college faculty strike are back on, there's still a risk classes may be pushed into next summer.

In a letter to students yesterday, Cheryl Jensen wrote that the current fall term could end up being extended into the winter, depending on the length of the work stoppage.

That could potentially bump the next term into the summer of 2018.

"Every effort will be made to avoid extending into the summer, but again, this will depend on how long classes are suspended," Jensen said.

"This will vary from program to program."

Classes will resume on the second weekday after the work stoppage ends, Jensen wrote, and no tests or exams will take place in the first three days after classes resume.

The scheduled winter break between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2 will not be used for any classes or exams regardless of the need to restructure the academic year, according to the letter.

Jensen said it's not clear how or whether students will be reimbursed for tuition, and that the colleges expect direction from the province with regard to refunds.

Cheryl Jensen

Algonquin College President Cheryl Jensen told students in a letter on Wednesday that it's possible their fall term will have to be extended because of the ongoing strike by faculty. (Roger Dubois/CBC)

'It has to be resolved'

With the strike by Ontario college faculty now in its eighteenth day, a provincial mediator has announced the two sides will return to the bargaining table on Thursday.

The announcement came Wednesday, the same day that students converged on Queen's Park for a rally. Another rally on Thursday by striking faculty will go ahead as planned, according to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

Both sides are under a lot of pressure to resolve the strike, lest students be unable to complete their work for the term on schedule, said Gilles LeVasseur, a professor in the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. 

"It has to be resolved in the next eight to 10 days at the latest," said LeVasseur, speaking on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Negotiations are complex because the employer represents 24 different colleges with somewhat different interests, LeVasseur said, making it difficult to find agreement on concessions.

"When you put something on the table, it may hit one college more than another," LeVasseur said.

It's likely the province will work behind the scenes to help break the impasse, he added, by proposing new initiatives to help colleges meet the increased cost of concessions.

If mediation fails, LeVasseur said the government could also request that legislation be passed to begin the arbitration process, allowing a neutral party to potentially impose a solution.