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Secondary school students protest the loss of extracurricular activities, while the threat of a one-day strike hangs over the heads of elementary students.

Job action at local schools could heat up

By Bob Vrbanac and
Charlotte prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff

Local families could face big childcare headaches as early as Monday.

The local Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is in a position to strike on Dec. 17, and teachers here could stage a one-day strike, as has already happened at other school boards across the province.

ETFO has promised parents 72-hour notice of strike action. There has been no notice as of press time.

Greg Weiler, president of ETFO’s Waterloo local, said representatives from each school are attending a meeting this morning, and if notice comes, it won’t be until this afternoon at the earliest.

“We have to inform members first, then the school board, then the media,” he said.

Mark Schinkel, superintendent at the Waterloo Region District School Board, was unavailable to answer questions about whether public schools would stay open in the event of a strike.

Abigail Dancey, the board’s manager of communications, would not disclose what options the board has in place.

She said the board will communicate with the community as quickly as possible after they are given details of ETFO’s plans.

“We haven’t been advised, so we haven’t been able to make that decision yet. Until we’re advised, then we’ll decide what we’ll do,” she said.

In Toronto, all elementary schools were closed during the walk-outs because there wouldn’t be enough staff on hand to ensure student safety.

Meanwhile, high school  students rallied against the loss of extra-curricular activities in the ongoing labour dispute between the province and Ontario’s secondary school teachers.

Officials from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation warned Monday that the withdrawal of those services could continue for the next two years as they continue to protest Bill 115 as an assault on their Charter rights to collectively bargain with local school boards.

Teachers point out that they’ve already accepted a wage freeze and the clawback of other benefits, but say Bill 115 takes away their right to bargain.

More than 300 students attended a rally at Waterloo public square with signs and placards.

That threat didn’t sit well with students.

“At this point it, doesn’t matter who is at fault, it’s a problem that is affecting us,” said Saige Kelly, a Grade 12 student at KCI.

“It’s going to affect athletic scholarships, we’re not going to get a prom, and a lot of things that have just been considered a given all throughout high school are gone and we’re not getting them because of their issues.

“That’s totally unfair to us — it shouldn’t affect us. We’re protesting to make it clear that we’re not taking this lying down and if this continues there will be more students strikes where we just sit in the hallways.”

There were a number of those students sit-ins held on Monday.

Kira Merchant, a Grade 12 student at Eastwood, said she’s part of the arts program that draws students from across the region, and said the productions her school puts on affect their final grade.

“We need extra-curriculars to graduate with an arts diploma,” said Merchant. “This is going to affect all us seniors and the diploma we were going to get, and we worked so hard for this.

“We can no longer stay after school to work on our activities with our teachers, who want to help us, and I don’t think its fair.”

Two KCI students, Jack Meyer and Andrew Clubine, organized the rally.

“We’re not picking sides,” said Clubine, who is also a student trustee at the local public board.

“We’re holding this rally to unify students voices. We know people have different opinions on this issue, but as students we want this dispute to be resolved and that’s why we brought everybody together.”

For current updates and news of possible school closures, go to kitchenerpost.ca.

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