The region’s public school board has earmarked $300,000 in funds to bring in extra staff and increase surveillance in the wake of labour disruptions in both its elementary and secondary schools.
The money will help to bring in retired principals and vice-principals to ease the burden being felt by school administrators as teachers withdraw services in response to sanctions demanded by their respective unions.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) has instructed teachers to withdraw participation from all extra-curricular activities beginning on Monday. Local members of the Elementary
Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) will be in a strike position next Thursday, December 13.
Both unions are protesting the passing of Bill 115, which freezes wages and cuts benefits to employees.
“We will be doing the very best we can to keep all of our schools open,” said Upper Canada District School Board director of education David Thomas.
“There will be some costs, without question. We're not quite sure how the math will be done, but we're going to have to be vigilant and we're going to have to support the people who are in the schools for that type of result.”
The board agreed at a meeting on Wednesday night that $300,000 would be a reasonable amount.
“We need to remind people that we're making it work and keeping kids in schools, but that's not happening without a cost,” said board chair Greg Pietersma.
Thomas said there is a need for increased supervision in schools, which the extra staff would be used for.
The $300,000 would also be used for extra surveillance and security at board properties.
“The problem in this situation is that people think your guard's down,” said Thomas about the decision to bring in extra security. Thomas said he’s seen previous labour unrest situations in which vandalism to school properties increased.
The public school board is also adamant that it will not cancel extra-curricular activities as a result of the anticipated withdrawal of secondary teachers on Monday.
Thomas said that principals of each school can choose a parent or other community member to get involved with extra-curricular.
Anyone interested would need to complete a criminal reference check, have references, approval by the school's principal and some experience in coaching.
“It won't help every single situation,” said Thomas.
“I would encourage...these people to help us help our students to enjoy a balanced and organized school year.”
In an online vote, 92 per cent of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario's 46,000 members voted to hold one-day protests and walk off the job. The union says that schools will be given 72 hours notice before the walkouts.Local ETFO members are not in a strike position until Thursday, December 13.