Eastern Ontario boards prepare for Thursday walkouts

Two eastern Ontario school boards are trying different approaches to planned walkouts on Thursday by English public elementary teachers.

Teachers will be walking off the job Thursday at both the Limestone board, which includes Kingston, Napanee and surrounding townships, and the Upper Canada District School Board, which serves communities in the counties of Lanark, Leeds, Grenville, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry, Prescott and Russell.

The walkouts are part of the rotating strikes across the province in protest of the Liberal government's Bill 115, which curbed the ability of teachers' unions to strike.

All 51 public elementary schools in the Limestone board will be closed, just as schools in Ottawa were closed last week when the one-day walkout hit the capital region.

But the Upper Canada District School Board has decided to remain open.

Dave Thomas, the board's director of education, said parents who are able to keep their children at home are encouraged to do so, but said given the rural nature of the board, some parents who have difficulty finding other childcare options for their children would need the schools to remain open.

"On top of that we said we would have our buses running because it makes no sense to say we're going to help our communities, especially our rural communities, and then not run our buses. We felt that would be kind of duplicitous," said Thomas.

Students will be supervised in large central areas, such as gymnasiums. Regular school programming will not be offered.

Thomas said he isn't sure what to expect on Thursday, but said he expects fewer than 2,000 students — or less than 10 per cent of the student body — will need to come to school.

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