Local school boards announce plans pending possible CUPE walkout

As Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 draws closer, local school boards have announced their plans for what will happen should the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) take job action.

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2019, CUPE formally notified the Province, the Council of Trustees Association (CAT), and school boards throughout Ontario that CUPE workers would escalate their job action to a full-fledged walkout on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.

Today, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, the four public school boards overseeing schools in Kingston and the area all announced their formal plans should that walkout take place.

The Limestone District School Board (LDSB) and the Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB) both announced their boards will close their schools entirely should CUPE workers withdraw all services.

Limestone District School Board

“A full walkout means that CUPE staff would not report to work. In Limestone, this includes about 700 staff including custodians, maintenance staff, office administrators, clerical staff, early childhood educators, educational assistants, communicative disorders assistants, and information technology technicians,” Debra Rantz, Director of Education for the LDSB said in a public statement.

“Given the magnitude of this strike, we cannot safely operate our schools. This means we will close all schools to students on Monday, Oct. 7 – if an agreement is not reached this weekend. If a deal is reached over the weekend, or all parties commit to continued bargaining, a strike might not occur. We will confirm the status of our schools Monday morning, much the way we handle inclement weather days. We will share information by 6 a.m. on our Board communication channels and direct messages to families.”

According to the LDSB, a school closure means the following:

  • Students will not be permitted at school. Parents and guardians will need to find alternate arrangements for their children for the duration of the strike.
  • Students attending Cooperative Education, School Within a College (SWAC), Dual Credits, and the Building Construction Internship Program (BCIP) will be permitted to continue their learning as it is offsite.
  • Students participating in eLearning courses may continue their learning as well.
  • All extra-curricular activities will be cancelled.
  • Teaching staff and non-unionized staff are required to report to work.
  • Child-care facilities operating in our schools, including before-and after-care, will also be closed. Families who use these services will need to make alternate arrangements for their children.
  • All Community Use of Schools programs are cancelled. Users of our school facilities will need to make alternative arrangements for their activities.

The LDSB gave the following reasons for its decision to close the schools:

  • Overall health, safety and well-being
  • Appropriate supervision
  • Attendance management
  • Medical supports and care
  • Safe operation of water and sanitation systems including mandatory water flushing
  • Conditions of school buildings and classrooms. 

“It is unclear how long a strike might last. As such, parents and guardians should arrange their own contingency plans for possible ongoing school closures,” Rantz’s statement continues. “We are hopeful that a provincial agreement can be reached soon. We appreciate your patience and understanding.”

Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board

“As CUPE represents over 500 of our school based staff, we would not be able to safely operate our schools. As always, student and staff safety is our priority,” The ALCDSB said in a statement on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

“Therefore, IF the strike proceeds, we will be closing our schools to students commencing Monday, October 7, 2019 until further notice.”

According to ALCDSB, the following are the reasons the board considered when deciding to close schools should the CUPE walkout occur:

  • the safety and wellbeing of students
  • supervision
  • medical supports and care
  • safe operation of water and sanitation systems
  • conditions of classrooms and school building
  • overall safety and security.

For the ALCDSB, should the walkout proceed, all childcare programs will cease operation, including full day childcare, before and after care programs and Early On Centre programs. All community use of schools across ALCDSB will be cancelled commencing on Saturday, October 5, 2019 and will remain closed until further notice, and all extra-curricular activities will also be cancelled until further notice.

In contrast, both French school boards with schools in the area – the Catholic School Board Central East (CECCE) and Conseil des Ecoles Publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) – have announced their schools will remain open should CUPE workers walk out on Monday.

Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario

“At the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO), this union represents custodians, secretaries, attendance and library staff, and some administrative staff in schools and at the head office,” Edith Dumont, Director of Education for CEPEO said in a statement on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

“This Monday, October 7, the head office, schools and educational/daycare centers remain open. We would like to reassure you that a general strike does not affect classroom teaching, but will have an impact on day to day activities in schools. Before and after school activities, lunchtime activities and educational outings will be suspended.”

CEPEO advises that, during the walkout (should it happen), there may be delays in answering doorbells and buzzers at the school entrances, answering phone calls and emails, and cleaning.

“Please inform your children that it will be necessary to keep the food waste from their lunch and snacks in their lunch box and to bring it home, in order to limit the accumulation of trash at school,” the statement from Dumont reads.

“Please note that picket lines may be erected in front of schools and educational/daycare centers. These could limit access to parking and school property and could cause delays. As a result, the start time of classes may be slightly affected and school staff will be sympathetic with regards to this.”

Catholic School Board Central East

“The administration of the Catholic School Board Central East (CECCE) for its part maintains its schools open. The decision to keep schools open CECCE is explained by the fact that a general strike CUPE would not affect the safety or well-being of students and staff,” Rejean Sirois, Director of Education for CECCE said in a statement on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. “However, the administration is committed to follow the situation very closely and to assess the needs of schools in each case.”

CECCE advises that the possible CUPE walkout could lead to delays in maintenance, and that possible picket lines could impact access to parking and the school property. For CECCE, CUPE employees only represent janitors, labourers, and technicians – far less staff than those CUPE employees at other school boards.

Kingstonist is currently looking into how the possible CUPE job action and subsequent school closures will impact polling stations in the upcoming federal election, as well as for community groups such as the Kingston Sport and Social Club (KSSC), Guides, Scouts, and other clubs/activities. We will continue to monitor the CUPE negotiation process, and provide more information as it becomes available. For a full statement from CUPE on the job action, click here.

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