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The Globe and Mail

Ontario public school boards warn of walkouts on Tuesday

Elementary teachers picket in front of York Region District School Board offices. in Aurora, December 13, 2012. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail)

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Ontario public school boards are scrambling to tell parents that elementary schools will be shuttered Tuesday, as union leaders have failed to confirm widely reported walkouts that will affect hundreds of thousands of students.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has directed its members at Toronto, Peel, Durham, Waterloo Region, Greater Essex County, Grand Erie, Near North and Lambton Kent district school boards to take to the picket lines Dec. 18. The walkouts will be the largest yet, but the union hasn't confirmed them with board staff, school administrators or the public.

Board staff were left scrambling Friday, sending out unofficial notices to parents so they can make alternative childcare arrangements.

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Ian Cryer, vice-chair of the Lambton Kent board, which serves the Sarnia and Chatham area, said school board officials were particularly concerned about reaching the families of kindergarten children who attend class on alternate days, so the board sent a letter home with students Friday.

"We still haven't officially heard," he said. "Children who would ordinarily be going to kindergarten on Tuesday won't be at school Monday to receive official notification so I think the board basically had to act, just in case."

A union source said that official notice will be given Saturday. That timing would fit with a promise made by ETFO's leadership to give parents three days' notice before walking out.

"While we are under no legal obligation to give notice of a strike, ETFO will provide parents and boards with 72 hours' notice of any one-day strike action," union president Sam Hammond said in an e-mail statement.

High school teachers are also taking job action, stopping all volunteer activities.

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