Public elementary schools across the Lambton-Kent District School Board are set to be closed on Thursday, February 6, 2020, as legal strike action is being taken by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
Elementary schools in the Lambton-Kent District School board will also be closed next week, as ETFO will engage in legal strike action on Monday, February 10 at select school boards, including Lambton-Kent, and on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, as a one day strike will be held by all 83,000 ETFO members.
At this time, public secondary schools and all schools across the St. Clair Catholic District School Board will be open on all of these dates.
“Student safety is the top priority for the LKDSB,” said John Howitt, director of education for the LKDSB, in a letter to parents.
“In our schools and across our system, ETFO represents all elementary school teachers. A full strike would mean elementary teachers would not report to work and the LKDSB will not be able to safely operate our elementary schools.”
Howitt confirmed if a settlement is not reached and the one-day, legal strike actions proceeds, elementary schools will be closed to students on February 6, 10 and 11.
“Due to anticipated school closures, families are strongly encouraged to explore alternate childcare arrangements,” Howitt said.
“The LKDSB is hopeful a provincial agreement can be reached, and the full strike action will be avoided. Secondary schools will be open on these dates, based on the information to date.”
Deb Crawford, the director of education for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, said the only strike action that affects the Catholic board is the action held on Tuesday, February 4, 2020
“The Board regrets any disruption to student learning and inconvenience to families that these labour actions may cause; however we acknowledge and respect the fact that sanctions are part of the legal collective bargaining process,” Crawford said in a statement on their website.
“We continue to be hopeful that a collective agreement which is fair to all parties can be negotiated at the provincial bargaining table.”
ETFO sent five-day notices to school boards and authorities across the province on Tuesday, February 4.
“ETFO’s 83,000 public elementary school educators will be on the picket lines again next week in the hope that the Ford government and Education Minister Lecce will return to talks prepared to support public education,” stated Sam Hammond, ETFO president, in a media release.
“It is clear that they are not going to accept the government’s deep cuts to public education. The Minister and his team must come to the table with a mandate to reach a deal that benefits students, student learning and educators.”
Hammond added fom ETFO’s perspective, fair contract talks must include: appropriate funding for special education, a strategy to address classroom violence, maintaining the internationally recognized Kindergarten program and fair hiring practices.
“Educators must have the tools and supports to prepare students to realize their individual aspirations and productively contribute to the economic and social fabric of this province,” Hammond said.
Earlier this week, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, said the government is ready to negotiate at any time.
“Our Government has continuously demonstrated our focus and desire to keeping kids in class through reaching an agreement with teachers’ unions,” he stated in a media release.
“We remain available to meet at the negotiating table at any time, to engage in good-faith bargaining, and reach a deal that provides stability for our students and keeps them in class.”
The mediator is working to establish new dates for negotiations to continue, provincial officials say.
Dozens of teachers from the area took to the streets of downtown Wallaceburg on Tuesday, February 4, during a one-day strike by various teachers unions.
Read our coverage, here.