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Education Ontario teachers pledge ‘it’s not business as usual’ on extracurriculars

Teacher’s union officials and labour leaders speak to media outside Queen’s Park in Toronto on Tuesday.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Ontario teachers are vowing to withdraw voluntary services, casting some uncertainty over the school year ahead.

Union leaders have directed their members to cut back on leading clubs and coaching sports teams on their own time in protest against legislation passed Tuesday at Queen's Park. The new bill enforces a two-year wage freeze, cuts sick days in half and blocks teachers from going on strike.

Opposition to the bill has been so strong that 10,000 teachers rallied outside the legislature last month and many educators have already vowed to stop spending their own money on school supplies or stay after class to help struggling students.

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Union leaders made it official and directed to their members Tuesday to withdraw services.

Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, asked his members to stop extra-curricular activities for one day on Wednesday. Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, didn't put a time limit on his members, and urged them to take an indefinite pause on voluntary activities.

The union is also introducing "McGuinty Mondays" – days on which teachers will be urged not to participate in any school-based meetings.

"It is not business as usual," Mr. Hammond told reporters on the front lawn of Queen's Park. "We are absolutely ashamed of what happened today."

The impact this will have on the province's classrooms remains unclear. The elementary union's instructions leave wiggle room for teachers to decide how much of their services they wish to withdraw, and many remained undecided Tuesday.

Cayla Hochberg, a junior high teacher in Toronto, said she wasn't certain whether she'd follow her union's directive.

"I feel really conflicted," she said. "We just started cross-country [running] Monday and we had 60 kids come out. ... I really don't want to stop doing these things."

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One of her students has a broken leg, and has been arriving at school 20 minutes early in order to climb the stairs to her second-floor classroom where she supervises him until the school day begins.

"How do I say no to that kid?" she said. "I can't do it."

Lisa Taylor, a Grade 2 teacher in Author, Ont., said she felt conflicted about stopping her class book club or stepping away from school choir.

"I don't want to deny students these things, but at the same time we need to follow in step with our federation," she said.

Ms. Taylor said she'll look for ways to integrate her book club into the school day for her students.

With a report from Karen Howlett

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