Ontario School Boards Asked to Switch to Online Learning for Next Week

School boards in Ontario have been asked to switch to remote learning next week if education workers go on strike on Monday. An alleged memo from Ontario’s Ministry of Education titled Labour Disruptions – Continued Contingency Planning states in school learning can be provided but only if staff can ensure “student safety and continuity.”

According to a new report, the Ministry of Education has sent out a memo to school boards asking them to switch to remote learning for next week in case education workers go on strike on Monday. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), on Wednesday, filed a five-day notice to strike if a deal was not struck between its members and the government. The legal strike if it happens, will start on Monday, November 21.

“We are making this request to minimize disruptions to students, parents, and guardians in the event that CUPE does not reach an agreement, and proceeds with its strike action,” the memo reads. Schools have also been asked to take “immediate steps” to assist students who need devices and mobile WIFI. The Ministry of Education also reportedly added that in-school learning is allowed only if schools can ensure “student safety and continuity.” The parents should be informed by noon the day before of whatever the school is planning on doing.

The ministry also asked for special attention to be paid to their children with special education needs and the most vulnerable.

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Several school boards across Ontario have already announced they will be transitioning to online learning on Monday if a strike happens. Peel District School Board (PDSB) and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board have announced they will be shut on Monday. Their students will “participate in synchronous remote learning.”

CUPE represents 55,000 education workers across Ontario who are legally allowed to go on strike. The union and the government have been trying to reach a satisfactory deal but talks seem to break down more often than not. The two sides have been in talks since Thursday and will continue discussions over the weekend. CUPE said that they recently agreed to a 3.59 percent wage increase, but they also want early childhood educators in every kindergarten class and higher staffing levels.

Both parties have reportedly agreed to have a deal struck by 5 p.m. Sunday in order to avert the strike. In a statement, CUPE officials said, “The parties will spend all weekend at the table and we urge the government to return with the earnest intention of reaching a fair deal for students, families, and workers.”

Vineet Washington

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