Education Minister Liz Sandals was optimistic about a resumption of contract talks with Ontario's teachers' following a meeting Friday with union leaders and Premier Kathleen Wynne, but no dates have been set.
"It really was a positive meeting and people really are committed to finding solutions and we really will get back to the table in August," Sandals said after the private, one-hour get-together. "We'll work on getting those specific dates, but all the boards, and all the unions, are committed to getting back to the table."
The union leaders say they still have some major issues around hiring practices, teachers' prep time and class sizes to deal with if they are to reach new agreements before classes begin Sept. 8.
"I haven't heard anything that's changed anybody's opinion, anybody's position," said Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. "I think it was an important step that all parties heard from the premier, and we'll see where that goes, but I haven't seen or heard anything that's going to change anything."
Wynne asked for the meeting to try to jump-start the stalled talks before two million Ontario students return to school in September.
"Not getting back to bargaining is an abdication of our responsibility," she said in a statement. "I was pleased that this morning that no one said a deal was impossible and there was a willingness to set dates to get back to the table."
The talks with the premier and the school boards' association "went fairly well" but the same issues that led to a breakdown in negotiations remain, said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.
"We need to get past the rhetoric, and all of us need to have confirmed dates (for negotiations)," he said. "We have some issues that we need taken off of that table."
Ann Hawkins of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association said there was still plenty of time to negotiate new contracts before classes begin.
"Let's face it, six weeks is a considerable length of time," she said. "It only takes a few days to get a deal if both sides are working towards it."
OECTA has released a list of activities teachers will not engage in without a new contract, such as supervising extracurricular activities and taking part in parent-teacher meetings, but Hawkins said nothing has been decided.
"Those are all possible actions, and what decisions are made will not happen until much later," she said.
The New Democrats said Wynne should make it clear the government will protect the cap on class sizes, while the Conservatives said Sandals should resign.
The union representing Ontario's Francophone teachers was also at Friday's meeting with Wynne, but it is the only one still in contract negotiations with school boards.
Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association refused to speak with reporters as he left, and later issued a statement saying the issues being negotiated should not be "vetted in the media."
Contracts for all 115,000 Ontario teachers expired last August.