Kitchener-Waterloo

What parents need to know for teachers union strike Wednesday

More than 100,000 students at over 150 public elementary and high schools in Waterloo region and Wellington County will be out of class Wednesday if the OSSTF teachers union strikes.

Every school board in the region will cancel classes except Waterloo Catholic District School Board

Several day camps across the region are being offered now that most public schools in the region will close to students on Wednesday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

More than 100,000 students at over 150 public elementary and high schools in Waterloo region and Wellington County will be out of class Wednesday if the OSSTF teachers union stages its scheduled strike.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation is planning a one-day walkout across the province.

Teachers and support workers will go to the picket line for a one day job action unless a deal is reached between the union and provincial government before Wednesday morning.

Which school boards are affected?

School boards that are planning to cancel classes include Waterloo Region District School Board, Upper Grand District School Board, Wellington Catholic District School Board and the two French language boards with schools in the region — Conseil Scolaire Viamonde and Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir.

The only school board in the region that will still run classes is Waterloo Catholic District School Board. Teachers there are represented by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, which isn't in a legal strike position.

But the WCDSB's chief managing officer John Shewchuk says some support workers at its St. Louis Adult Learning & Continuing Education Centre are represented by the striking union OSSTF. 

"We're in the process of assessing any potential impacts," Shewchuk said.

Meanwhile, the Wellington Catholic District School Board says even though its teachers aren't represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, it's also cancelling classes because some staff members, such as educational assistants and early childhood educators, are members of the striking union.

"School safety in an inclusive environment remains of paramount importance to us," said the board's director of education Tamara Nugent in a news release.

Why will elementary schools be closed?

The union that's striking represents public secondary school teachers, but elementary schools will be closed as well because the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation also represents other staff members at both elementary and secondary schools.

"Here in Waterloo region it does include the support staff, secretaries, custodians, I.T. people, language pathologists and so on who also work in the elementary schools," said Rob Gascho, local president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation in Waterloo.

Even though most public elementary schools will be closed in the region, the picketing on Wednesday morning will only happen at high schools in the region, according to Gascho. 

Gascho says teachers will also picket at the three Conservative MPP offices in the region.

Why is the union holding a one-day strike?

Simply put, to turn the pressure up on the provincial government.

Gascho says the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation has been negotiating with the province for eight months and no progress has been made.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said "the government has demonstrated consistently it is reasonable and student-centric."

The union's main sticking points are cuts to support staff, mandatory e-learning and class sizes.

Last week, the union launched an administrative work-to-rule campaign where teacher withdrew from some administrative duties, such as writing comments on report cards.

The union is adamant students are not affected by the work-to-rule job action. The strike will be a much different story.

What are the childcare options out there?

The cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph are all running day camps. 

The cost ranges from $25 to $45. The programs are generally geared for children between the ages of four and 12, but space is limited.

"We are opening up our camp progra — similar to how we would for any other day or summer camp. Currently we have 30 spaces," said Nancy Hall-Jupp, Supervisor of Leisure and Active Living Programs for the City of Waterloo.

Region of Waterloo Museums will also offer programming for children at the Schneider Haus National Historic SiteKen Seiling Waterloo Region Museum and McDougall Cottage Historic Site.

The YMCA is holding a day program for 100 kids at Camp Ki-Wa-Y in St. Clements. 

TheMuseum and Bingemans are also offering day camps on a first come, first served basis.

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