Ottawa

Parents' patience wearing thin as school closures continue

Some parents of children shut out of classes by yet another strike by teachers Monday say the ongoing labour dispute is causing turmoil for their families.

While some parents continue to stand behind teachers, others reaching 'saturation level'

On the first day of rotating one-day strikes by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, parents say they're hoping the union and the government can come to an agreement soon.  1:26

Some parents of children shut out of classes by yet another strike by teachers Monday say the ongoing labour dispute is causing turmoil for their families.

Monday marks the first walkout by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), but it's actually the third time all elementary schools under the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) have closed since the job action began.

All 143 OCDSB elementary schools closed last Wednesday when the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), which represents support workers who play vital roles in the day-to-day operation of elementary schools, staged a walkout. An earlier OSSTF walkout closed elementary schools on Dec. 4.

The latest closure is pushing some parents to their limits.

A parent drops off their child at a day camp during Monday's strike by elementary school teachers in Ottawa. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Dropping her tearful four-year-old daughter off at one of the special City of Ottawa-run day camps Monday, Reshma Bhimani said the strikes have disrupted their routine.

"We can't keep her home. We don't have extended families or parents who can take care of her. So, she has to go to daycare. We have to go to work."

Bhimani said she remains supportive of the teachers, but wants a quick resolution.

"We're actually reaching a saturation level now, and I think if [a walkout] does happen every week or every other week, it's going to come to a point where everybody's going to get frustrated," she said. "For parents and for kids, it's important that they get back in school on a regular basis, and not having to go through this turmoil."

Reshma Bhimani said while she supports teachers in their job action, her family is reaching its 'saturation level' with the one-day strikes. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

'Pretty ridiculous'

Other parents said their support for the teachers is beginning to wane because of the strain it's placing on both their finances and their time.

"I recently started school myself, so trying to find somebody to have my child for the day, and then having to pay that out of my pocket, being low-income, it's pretty ridiculous," said Amber-Lynn Côté, who also left her son at a camp for the day.

"They're playing in a gym right now, so they're not getting the education that they actually need."

Other parents said as tough as it's been on their families, they're still standing staunchly behind the teachers.

Teachers walk the picket line outside Glashan Public School in Ottawa on Jan. 20, 2020, the first one-day strike by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario since job action began. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Tara Peel dropped her two young children off at day camp after dropping off coffee and doughnuts for teachers on the picket line.

"Of course it's a bit of a challenge, a bit of a change in our routine in the morning, and the kids would much rather be at school learning, but we're grateful for the teachers for standing up and fighting for education," she said.

"I think the cuts that are being proposed by the Ford government will be much, much worse in the long run."

Parents were also divided on whether they would take the government up on its offer of up to $60 to offset the cost of child care when elementary school teachers are on strike. 

On Tuesday, all elementary and secondary schools under the Ottawa Catholic School Board will be closed as the union representing their teachers holds its own one-day walkout.