Ontario’s Education Minister has approved four more deals between schools boards and high school teachers that will help schools return to a normal academic year.
Education Minister Laurel Broten said in a statement Thursday evening that the four tentative deals, which require approval from their respective memberships, are substantially identical to the agreement reached with English Catholic teachers.
The four boards, Thames Valley, Avon Maitland, District of Niagara School Board and Hamilton-Wentworth District School Boards, are the latest to receive the stamp of approval. Earlier this week, deals between York Region and Upper Grand and its high school teachers were approved by the Minister.
Three other tentative deals with Durham, Ottawa-Carleton, Lakehead and Kawartha Pine Ridge district school boards are still awaiting the minister’s approval. Union members will also be asked to approve the deals.
High school teachers at more than 20 boards are in a legal strike position, although they have restricted their withdrawal of services to administrative duties and supervising outside their classrooms. At least two elementary school unions, including York Region, began legal strike action this week.
Teachers say the strike action is intended to target administrators, not students. Still, limiting teacher-supervision during lunch and in the hallways has high-school officials nervous about student safety.
School boards have been compensating by closing gyms at lunchtime and hiring extra clerical or security staff to help out. Some boards, including Upper Canada District School Board in eastern Ontario and Trillium Lakelands District School Board in cottage country north of Toronto, have given administrators the authority to shutter their schools if the situation becomes dire.
Leaders of both the OSSTF and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario have vowed to ramp up job action as the dispute with the province drags on. They have until Dec. 31 to reach a deal with their local school boards, which according to legislation enacted in September, must be substantially similar to a deal reached between the Ontario government and the English Catholic teachers’ union.
Teachers are opposed to a controversial legislation, which forces a wage freeze, cuts teachers’ sick days and limits their right to strike. Premier Dalton McGuinty has maintained that these concessions were required in order to balance a $14.8-billion deficit while at the same time preserving job-generating initiatives such as caps on primary class sizes and full-day kindergarten.