Some elementary school students in Toronto won't be getting their autumn progress report cards, as part of the latest fallout from an ongoing dispute between the province and its public school teachers.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has been directing its members to fill in only the bare minimum – a single sentence – on students' report cards. Principals at the Toronto District School Board are refusing to send home reports they feel are incomplete.
"If the principal feels that the report does not adequately reflect the child's progress, he or she will not be signing it," said Shari Schwartz-Maltz, a spokeswoman for the board. Parents will receive a letter instead and can schedule an appointment with their child's teacher.
"Parents are being encouraged to call the school and leave a message asking the teacher to phone them back. Parents have a right to that conversation."
Many parents are already frustrated with the scheduling of parent-teacher interviews, with some teachers not available in the evenings.
Julie Forrest, whose daughter is in Grade 2 at Morse Street Public School, says the latest appointment she was offered was at 4:30 p.m., requiring her to leave work two hours early. Teachers, Ms. Forrest said, need to communicate with parents about how they can help put an end to the job action. "It's essential to have [progress] information," Ms. Forrest said.
Many elementary-teacher union locals are expected to be in a legal strike position this month. High-school teachers at six public school boards are already poised to strike, but their deadline for job action was pushed back to next Monday as negotiations have resumed with the Ontario government. If those talks don't suceed, high-school students may have to wait weeks to get their grades as union leaders have directed teachers to submit grades to school administrators. At schools where enrolment is high, the work could take weeks as office staff would have to input the marks into a central computer system.
Some high-school teachers may be locked out. On Wednesday night, the Upper Canada District School Board – which covers many schools in Eastern Ontario – passed a motion that would enable it to lock out staff if the safety of students was at risk. No other boards have announced similar actions.
Since early September, teachers have been pulling back on volunteer activities – things like coaching, clubs and parent-teacher meetings – in protest of Bill 115, which forces a wage freeze, cuts their sick days and limits their right to strike.
With a report from Simona Chiose