About 55,000 education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have walked off the job Friday to protest against controversial anti-strike legislation by the Ontario government.
On Thursday, the province passed legislation that imposes a contract on education workers, banning them from striking by using what’s called the notwithstanding clause, which allows the legislature to override portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he has directed school boards to do “everything possible” to keep as many schools open for as many students as possible, and has asked staff to be at work to provide “live learning” if CUPE moves forward with its planned strike.
Each school board is responding differently to the walkout, with most choosing to transition to independent or online learning citing concerns over school and student safety.
Here’s what the English-speaking school boards in the Greater Toronto Area are doing.
Toronto District School Board
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) will close schools for in-person learning and authorized recreation programs for all students, the board says.
While schools are closed, all in-person continuing education classes are also cancelled, the board says. Selected programs will continue to run.
Students will be given work to complete at home independently on Friday. All elementary, secondary and adult students who are currently learning virtually will continue as normal.
If the strike continues beyond Friday, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird says the board will have to look at moving students to synchronous learning online.
Third-party child-care operators located in TDSB schools will be allowed to remain open, the board says, while TDSB-operated and third-party operated EarlyON Child and family centres will be closed.
TDSB-operated extended day programs will also be closed. Refunds will be given for any closures, the board says.
All school and community-use permits are cancelled beginning Friday until further notice.
Toronto Catholic District School Board
Schools will be closed to students for in-person learning, but streamed lessons will be available online, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) says. Teachers will communicate online or provide learning materials for students to take home Thursday, and will be available for support and to respond to parents and students throughout the day.
Third party child-care operators located in TCDSB schools are allowed to remain open at operators’ discretion, but operating hours will be adjusted.
All authorized recreation programs will be closed Friday, along with EarlyON child programs and family centres. Virtual services can be accessed in the meantime.
Peel District School Board
About 2,500 staff in office secretarial, clerical, library technicians, custodial, maintenance, A/V repair, printing and food services are expected to walk off the job in Peel Friday, the board says.
All school buildings will be closed Friday and students will learn asynchronously. Teachers and support staff will be available remotely to help students.
All childcare, EarlyON centres and before and after-school programs will be closed, with all permits cancelled, the board says. Parents are asked to check with their childcare provider for more info.
Schools with a balanced calendar will have a PA day Friday as scheduled.
A FAQ on the board’s response to the labour action can be found on its website.
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Schools in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board will close for in-person learning, with all student transportation cancelled, the board says.
If the labour action extends beyond Friday, schools will continue to be closed to in-person learning, with the “staggering of synchronous remote learning” taking place on Monday. The board notes it will takes a day or two to become fully operational.
Teachers will post learning material online.
In light of the province’s directive, the board says it’s checking with families to see who requires a device if schools stay closed after Friday, but tech support may be limited as a lot of staff are CUPE members.
All child-care centres and before and after-school programs will also be closed Friday. Parents are asked to contact their child-care providers for more information.
York Region District School Board
Schools will be closed on Friday. Families are “strongly encouraged” to make alternate arrangements for students, the board said.
As of Friday afternoon, schools will be closed indefinitely until CUPE members return to work, the board says.
Asynchronous learning will occur for students who regularly attend in person. Virtual schools will operate as scheduled Friday.
Before and after-school programs will be closed, the board says.
Full-day childcare programs operating at schools are anticipated to operate normally, the board says, but will close by 4:30 p.m. Parents are asked to confirm with their providers.
As for next week, independent learning will continue Monday, with virtual learning beginning Tuesday if the labour action continues.
The board says it will share its plans to distribute technology in the coming days. Aftercare programs won’t be operating, the board says.
York Catholic District School Board
The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) says all schools will be closed on Friday.
Students will complete work asynchronously on Friday. The board says teachers will be available to answer students’ questions online during specified hours in the morning and afternoon.
Teachers will be planning virtual lessons for next week in case they’re needed, the board says. All continuing education programs, including tutoring, will be cancelled Friday and Saturday.
The board says by Sunday afternoon, it will have more information on what to expect for classes next week. It’s encouraging families to continue to make alternative child-care arrangements next week, in case it’s needed.
A FAQ has been posted by the board for parents and families.
Durham District School Board
The Durham District School Board is closing all of its schools for in-person and continuing education learning Friday, the board says. A few programs will run as planned, but all community and school permits are cancelled.
Employees represented by CUPE make up a “large group” of workers at the DDSB, the board says, and any labour disruption would have a significant impact on school operations.
Teachers will give students independent work to complete Friday, but there will be no live virtual classroom instruction, the board says. Students who have offsite co-op placements can continue to attend.
All elementary and secondary students currently learning virtually will continue as normal, but educational assistant support will not be available.
The board says all childcare programs for infants, toddlers and preschool children can be open and will operate under modified hours. All before and after-school programs, EarlyON programs, recreation programs and early years programs will be closed. Parents are advised to contact childcare providers for more information.
And if the labour action continues into next week, the board says schools will stay closed to in-person learning and transition to synchronous learning Monday,
By Tuesday, if workers are still striking, kindergarten students will get 180 minutes of live teaching per day, with Grades 1 to 8 receiving 225 minutes of live teaching per day, in “accordance to provincial direction,” the board says.
The board notes it doesn’t have the staff or enough equipment to distribute technology to all students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 who need it, and says virtual learning will look different for those in special education classes as educational assistants won’t be working.
It says its directed staff to be “flexible” in their expectations for students, as some families might not have access to technology, and others have older siblings who may be helping with childcare during this time.
Durham Catholic District School Board
School buildings will be closed to all students, including adult learners and students learning English, on Friday to ensure safety, the board says. Students who have cooperative education placements outside of Durham Catholic District School Board schools can continue to attend.
If the labour action continues, teachers will provide students with asynchronous work to be completed at any time during the day.
The board says childcare programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers will continue to operate, while before and after-school programs and EarlyON programs will shut down. Parents are asked to contact their child-care provider for more info.
A FAQ on the board’s plan for the labour action can be found on its website.
Halton District School Board
CUPE only represents custodial staff in Halton District School Board elementary and secondary schools, the board says.
After news of the Ford government’s legislation to preemptively stop a strike, the board announced all elementary and secondary schools will remain open for in-person learning. However, it asks parents to be aware that this “remains a fluid and changing situation” and decisions will be made accordingly.
The board previously released a schedule alternating between in-person and remote learning for elementary schools.
Halton Catholic District School Board
The Halton Catholic District School Board says it’s closing schools on Friday unless it “receives information to the contrary” by 6:30 a.m. Friday morning.
The board says CUPE represents a slew of school and system support staff that help maintain a safe environment for students.
Classes will instead move to remote asynchronous learning, while those learning remotely will continue as planned.
All before and after school programs and student transportation, among other programs, are cancelled.
Childcare centres will remain open.