Schools and related care programs bracing for Monday closures if CUPE strike proceeds

Tagwi Secondary School in North Stormont. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Happy Face remaining open, but only for children younger than school age

EASTERN ONTARIO — Parents are in a mad scramble as an impending CUPE strike threatens to close on Monday almost all publicly funded schools in Ontario — as well as the before- and after-school programs that have sprung up inside school facilities over the past decade.

In addition to the closure of regular classrooms in rural Eastern Ontario, programs and care for school-aged children operated by both the Glengarry Inter-Agency Group and Happy Face Nursery School will shut down Monday, too — unless last-minute negotiations with the Canadian Union of Public Employees this weekend averts the strike approved by the union membership earlier this week.

While Happy Face’s daycare service will still accommodate children younger than school age, that’s quite a departure for the organization, which otherwise also cares for older children during other classroom-closing events — such as snow days and the usual holidays. The service has become heavily relied-upon by working parents.

“We are uncertain at this time if a strike will transpire as the parties have said they are willing to continue with negotiations,” the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) says in a letter sent to parents yesterday.

 “If a strike by CUPE members does occur, the UCDSB will not be able to operate our facilities or provide proper supervision and care to our students. We will need to close all of our schools to students.  All before and after school care programs for school-aged students will be cancelled. Licensed, third-party daycares operating in our schools for non-school age children, will remain open.”

“This decision came only after careful deliberation and consideration. Please understand that CUPE represents 1,600 employees within our school board, in 10 different employee groups including: educational assistants (EAs), early childhood educators (ECEs), custodial/maintenance staff, clerical staff (including school office staff), library workers, and information technology staff. CUPE represents 40 per cent of our workforce.”

“The safety of students is our greatest priority,” noted Board Chair Todd Lalonde, also acknowledging the coming school closure on Monday in the event of a strike. “Therefore, due to the vast and significant roles held by CUPE employees, the CDSBEO regrets that if strike action commences, all schools will be closed to students effective Monday, October 7, until further notice.”

“CUPE represents more than 440 employees (31 per cent of the CDSBEO work force) within CDSBEO schools and administrative offices, and the Board has made this decision with student and staff safety as the priority. The strike will affect many facets of school operations, and the Board has considered many factors including the safety and wellbeing of students, supervision, medical supports and care, safe operation of water and sanitation systems, and the condition of classrooms and other areas of the school building.

“The Board encourages parents and guardians to have alternate childcare plans in place for Monday. Parents who have children that attend childcare and/or before and after school care programs in CDSBEO facilities should contact their individual provider for details on operations during the strike.”

Meanwhile, CUPE and the Council of Trustees’ Associations will resume provincial-level bargaining today at 4:30 p.m. in a bid to head off a strike and secure a central collective agreement for the union’s 55,000 education workers.

The UCDSB says parents will be apprised by 6:15 a.m. Monday of any impact to their daycare and other services.


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