Simcoe, Muskoka Catholic schools to close Dec. 4 if one-day strike happens

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All elementary and high schools under the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) will close for all students Wednesday if members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) proceed with a one-day strike.

This past Thursday, the provincial branch of the OSSTF announced its intent to proceed with a full, legal one-day walkout across Ontario on Dec. 4.

Under the SMCDSB, the OSSTF represents educational assistants, early childhood educators, office, clerical and maintenance staff.

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READ MORE: Simcoe County public high schools to close Dec. 4 if agreement not reached with union, province

“In our case, our teachers are not engaged in any job action at all right now,” Pauline Stevenson, the SMCDSB’s communications manager, told Global News.

“They’re bargaining. At the Catholic board, all of our teachers, elementary and secondary, are represented by…[the] Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.”

The board says it cannot ensure a safe learning environment for students in the absence of its educational support workers, who are members of the OSSTF.

“For educational assistants, they provide support to obviously special needs students, some of which need very significant support,” Stevenson said.

“Without an EA present…to provide support to some of these very high-needs students, there would be no way that we would be able to ensure a safe learning environment.”

READ MORE: Ontario English Catholic teachers getting closer to legal strike position

Some kindergarten classes have over 30 students, Stevenson said, noting that there needs to be an adult-student ratio of two adults per classroom.

“If all of the ECEs are on strike, then we wouldn’t have the proper ratio in any of our kindergarten classrooms.”

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Stevenson said the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic school board’s teachers will report to work Wednesday but that schools will not be open for students if the OSSTF and the province don’t reach an agreement.

The closure would include the cancellation of buses, in addition to before and after care at any schools under the SMCDSB.

“Some of our school facilities do have child care that goes on during the day, and so parents should check with their child care providers,” Stevenson said.

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