School Boards shelve extra-curricular activities amid teacher job action
Everything from volleyball practices to choir rehearsals are being cancelled at English public elementary schools across the northeast, as teachers are refusing to supervise extra curricular activities as part of an ongoing job action against the province.
"Because talks have stalled, we reached a point in negotiations where you run out of options and you have to continue to escalate to move things forward," said Barb Blasutti, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario branch representing workers at the Rainbow District School Board.
The Rainbow board itself is refusing to comment on how this will affect Sudbury area schools and if any of the teams and clubs will continue without teacher supervision.
A board spokesperson said this is part of a "media blackout" during the contract talks at the provincial level.
But the three other English public school boards in the northeast all say that most activities will be cancelled.
Jennifer Sarlo, the chair of the Algoma District School Board, said teams and clubs are a big part of school life and said she greatly appreciates the extra time teachers put in to make that happen.
"We can't take it for granted. And the students will miss it," she said.
But Sarlo said it would be very difficult for non-union principals and vice-principals to take on those coaching duties, when they are already doing work normally done by support staff, who are also refusing to do parts of their jobs during a separate work-to-rule campaign.
"In some cases, cleaning floors and doing things like that," said Sarlo.
Doug Shearer, the chair of the District School Board Ontario Northeast, said this labour strife is really starting to impact students and their families.
"People are recognizing that this can't continue. Certainly it's good to have strong labour relations and teachers need good contracts, but to continually disrupt schools like this is not good," he said.
David Thompson, chair of the Near North District School board, said there's little for local school officials to do but wait for word from the provincial bargaining table.
"Whatever happens in Queen's Park or Toronto, we live it on a daily basis. We're the ones who have to wear it," he said.
Thompson said he's proud of the relationship the Near North board has with local union leaders.
It could be tested next week, however, as starting Nov. 1, the province is planning to give local boards the power to discipline individual employees for not doing their jobs.