Toronto public and Catholic schools to close for in-person learning if CUPE goes on strike

Toronto public and Catholic schools will close for in person learning if the Canadian Union of Public Employees goes on strike on Monday, their respective school boards said on Wednesday. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)
Toronto public and Catholic schools will close for in person learning if the Canadian Union of Public Employees goes on strike on Monday, their respective school boards said on Wednesday. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)

The Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board say they will close their schools for learning in person on Monday if the Canadian Union of Public Employees goes on strike.

In labour updates on Wednesday, the TDSB and TCDSB warned that they will have to shut schools for safety reasons if education workers walk off the job. Students will move to online learning, the boards added.

"Student supervision and safety are our top priorities and without the important services of nearly 15,000 CUPE employees, we cannot guarantee that our learning environments will remain safe and clean for all students," the TDSB said in its update.

The TDSB said it hopes the union and Ontario government can reach an agreement before Monday. while the TCDSB said it will pray for a negotiated agreement.

"We understand that this news is difficult and may be the source of stress among our staff, students, and families. Given the evolving nature of the situation between the provincial government and CUPE, we are sharing contingency plans for next week to ensure the continuity of learning for students," the TCDSB added.

On Wednesday, CUPE filed a five-day strike notice, saying after two days of bargaining, talks had broken down with the province.

The Halton District School Board, meanwhile, said its elementary schools will be open for in-person learning on Monday and will switch to remote learning (real-time, teacher-led) for all students starting Tuesday until further notice. The board said its secondary schools will continue to be open for in-person learning for all students each day.

'Important work' would not happen, TDSB says

The TDSB said a strike by CUPE means some of the following "important work" would not happen:

  • No caretaking services, including cleaning of schools, classrooms, bathrooms and lunchrooms, operation and monitoring of heating and ventilation systems and snow removal.

  • No staff in school offices, including ensuring the safe arrival of all students.

  • No designated early childhood educators in kindergarten classrooms.

  • No educational assistants or special needs assistants to support students with special education needs.

  • No lunchroom supervisors to oversee elementary students during the lunch hour.

  • No school-based safety monitors in middle and high schools.

"We know that this is a challenging time for families, and we continue to work on plans to ensure learning continues and students are supported during any potential disruption. We remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached before Monday," the TDSB said.

Students will be able to learn online, TDSB says

According to the TDSB, synchronous learning will begin for those students who can connect online immediately.

Schools will begin distributing devices to students who require them as soon as possible, but the TDSB said it could take several days and could extend beyond on Monday. Parents, guardians and caregivers will hear directly from their child's school with details about requesting a device, the TDSB said.

"We recognize that some students will not participate in synchronous learning for a variety of reasons, including not having immediate access to a device. In those cases, teachers are asked to provide students with five or more days of asynchronous work so that their learning can continue at home," the TDSB said.

Students already learning online will continue to do so "with some adjustments" if there is a strike.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

The TCDSB is urging students without devices to contact their principals about obtaining a temporary device. For St. Anne students, the TCDSB classes will continue as usual.

As for special needs students, teachers will continue to support them according to their special education needs as detailed in their Individual Education Plans, the TDSB and TCDSB said.

As well, both boards said teachers will connect with families of students in intensive support programs to determine appropriate learning on an individual basis.

Strike could affect child-care centres in schools

The TDSB said it is determining if third-party child-care operators will be allowed to continue during a strike. The board said both TDSB-operated and third-party operated EarlyON Child and Family Centres will be closed. As well, TDSB-operated Extended Day Programs will be closed to all families because it is operated by CUPE employees.

While schools are closed, remote secondary-credit night school and remote Saturday international languages secondary-credit classes will continue to run.

All remaining continuing education classes are cancelled, including at non-TDSB locations where programming is held,, until further notice. This includes Saturday international languages secondary credit, in-person and remote Adult ESL, community programs/Learn4Life, and international languages elementary/African heritage.

As for the TCDSB, it said it will provide information about child care shortly, its before and after school programs and authorized recreation programs will be closed, and its EarlyON Child and Family Centres will be closed for in-person programs. All night schools will remain remote.

The TDSB and TCDSB said they will provide further updates as the labour situation changes.