Kingston area schools to close Monday unless province, CUPE reach deal

Schools will close Monday if no deal is reached between CUPE and the Ontario government. Kingstonist file photo.

Education workers with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are currently in contract negotiations with the Ontario government. However, yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, CUPE provided a five-day notice to school boards, announcing a full withdrawal of services effective Monday, November 21, should no deal be reached. Therefore, locally, CUPE members in the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) and Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB) will engage in a full withdrawal of services, should central negotiations not lead to a mutually agreeable settlement between the parties. 

According to an LDSB statement from a spokesperson on Wednesday, “given the range of critical roles and services provided by over 750 CUPE members in Limestone, with a full withdrawal of services, we cannot safely operate schools and provide in-person learning. As a result, unless a settlement is achieved, all schools and buildings will be closed to students and the public on Monday, November 21, 2022.“   

The LDSB warned that families should have a contingency plan in place for Monday and potentially longer if central negotiations do not resume, stating, “We do remain hopeful that the parties will resolve this matter with a negotiated settlement. “

According to a letter parents today, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, from ALCDSB Director of Education David DeSantis, “Should no agreement be met, all ALCDSB schools will be closed to students Monday, November 21, 2022, and to ensure the health and safety of staff and students, asynchronous online learning will take place for all students.”

“CUPE employees provide services that are vital to the operations of our school sites. The ALCDSB values the work of all its employees and their commitment to student safety,“ DeSantis continued. 

Similar sentiments were expressed by the LDSB spokesperson, who wrote, “The Board greatly values the work of all its employees and their commitment to student learning and well-being. Limestone respects the collective bargaining process and is hopeful for a negotiated agreement [to] be reached this week without any impact on classrooms and board operations. “

LDSB acknowledged families’ and caregivers’ desire for clear information about the potential closure of schools: “We appreciate that timely communication is important, and we commit to providing our school communities with additional details as soon as we can. Similar to an inclement weather day, notification confirming the status of our schools for in-person learning could be as late as Sunday evening or Monday morning, and will be provided via Board communication channels and direct email to families.”   

In terms of local education workers, CUPE Local 1480 represents maintenance workers, courier drivers, caretakers, facility services project coordinators, office/clerical staff, library technicians, early childhood educators (ECEs), educational assistants (EAs), interpreters, intervenors, intervention assistants, communicative disorders assistants, finance staff (payroll, accounting, purchasing), Information Technology Services (ITS) staff (administrators, specialists, technicians, and analysts), Educational Services staff (technician and coordinator), Outdoor Education staff (coordinator, program manager).   

“In the event of a continued withdrawal of services, as of Monday, November 21, 2022, asynchronous online learning will take place for all students. Co-operative Education and Dual Credit programming will continue to run,” DeSantis wrote of ALCDSB learning. However, no extracurricular activities will be running on school property, and before or after school care programs will not be in operation at any ALCDSB school sites until further notice.

DeSantis urged families to monitor for updates daily, “as further instruction may be delivered which may impact your child’s learning. The Ministry of Education will be providing further instructions to school boards.”

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