Thunder Bay

Public high school teachers in Rainy River District to hold walkout

Public high school teachers in the Rainy River District will be back out on the picket line on Wednesday for the second time in as many weeks.

OSSTF is holding rotating, one-day strikes at certain school boards across the province

The Rainy River District School Board is closing high schools on Wednesday because of a rotating strike by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. (CBC )

Public high school teachers in the Rainy River District will be back out on the picket line on Wednesday for the second time in as many weeks.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is holding rotating one-day strikes at certain school boards across the province. In northwestern Ontario, teachers at the Rainy River District School Board will be walking out.

The board's three high schools — Atikokan, Fort Frances and Rainy River — will be closed to students in grades 9 to 12. Elementary schools will remain open, including grade 7 and 8 programming in high schools.

'Disappointed that we have to do this'

The union last week held a one-day province-wide strike, which closed most public high schools across Ontario. Pickets were also set up at a number of public elementary and Catholic schools where OSSTF also represented support staff.

"I am disappointed that we have to do this but I'm also of the realization that this is very important to all of our members that we get these things that we're looking for," said Kent Kowalski, the OSSTF District 5B president in the Rainy River District.

Notice of the rotating one-day strike was issued by OSSTF last week. Education Minister Stephen Lecce called on the union to agree to mediation to attempt to reach an agreement. The union said it was willing to not go ahead with the strike and pursue mediation, but only if the Ford government backed off its plans to raise average class sizes, introduce mandatory e-learning and cap wage increases at one per cent.

14 positions cut

"In our particular situation, we suffered the maximum right off the bat," Kowalski said. "We know how many positions would be lost if this government continued because we're not going to get them back. We're running at a skeleton crew right now."

Kowalski said there were 81 full-time teaching positions at the district's three high schools last year. When staffing was being drawn up in the spring, provincial funding adjustments due to increased class sizes would have resulted in a loss of 14 positions.

The board reallocated funding to bring back four of those jobs, Kowalski said, adding that move likely saved the tech and music programs in the Atikokan and Rainy River high schools.

"A tech program in a large school could be five, six, seven teachers in a variety of areas. The tech program in the smaller schools could be the one person," Kowalski said.

"When we lose that person, that program is gone."