Extracurriculars are returning to Ontario high schools after a months-long political protest by teachers that saw students go without clubs, sports teams and other after-school activities.
Leaders of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation met Friday and decided that in light of progress being made in talks with the government of new premier Kathleen Wynne, the political protests should stop.
“Substantial progress was made at the most recent meeting with government representatives…” a memo sent to members, and obtained by The Globe and Mail, said. “As a result of this progress, the provincial negotiators unanimously recommended the following motion to the Provincial Executive: ‘That the Provincial Executive recommend to members that we suspend our political actions related to extra-curricular and voluntary activities.’”
Sources told The Globe and Mail that although the Liberal government has not made any concrete overtures, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation executive want educators to trust that talks are moving in a positive direction and return to extracurriculars.
“We expect that this sign of good will from our members will prompt the government to have genuine discussions that can lead to a fair resolution to this current impasse,” Ken Coran, president of OSSTF/FEESO, said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“We still maintain that voluntary activities are just that: voluntary,” continued Mr. Coran. “We encourage members to review recent information and decide if they are willing to return to participating in the activities we know they feel so passionately about.”
Insiders say that government discussions with leaders representing high-school teachers have moved at a quicker pace than with their elementary school counterparts. The OSSTF and their colleagues at the elementary level have been meeting with government officials for several weeks.
Public school teachers have withdrawn extracurricular activities to show their frustration at the provincial government for legislating the terms of their contracts.
School boards have been worrying for months about the loss of students to the Catholic and private systems because of the cancellation of extracurriculars. With early enrolment projections suggesting numbers could be down, and budget discussions introducing the prospect of teacher layoffs, those fears are spreading to union leaders.