English Catholic schools across the province were closed Tuesday as teachers held a one-day strike.
Among them were roughly 50 elementary and high schools with the Durham Catholic District School Board.
Many of the teachers were supported by parents who say potential cuts would be a blow to their child’s development.
“We’re getting hit from every angle,” said Virginia Mazzone-Ahou, parent and member of The Durham Crew, a grassroots group of parents of children with autism.
Mazzone-Ahou spent Tuesday picketing.
Her son, who is on the autism spectrum, goes to St. Leo Catholic School in Brooklin.
She says she’s concerned about potential cuts to special education.
“It’s a big blow to the whole education system,” said Mazzone-Ahou. “You’ll have my son sitting in class unsupported and what will the rest of the class be doing?
“Teachers are not able to support their class as well as special needs students in their class.”
All English Catholic school teachers across the DCDSB took part in the strike, including pickets outside Ajax MPP Rod Phillips’ office.
“We’re not walking out on the students, we’re walking out for the students,” said Marilynn D’Agrosa, a teacher with 15 years’ experience.
Uncertainty around kindergarten, class sizes, e-learning and special education supports, she says, can be damaging.
“I know in my classroom alone, I’m one teacher with all these students with varying needs and children fall through the cracks,” D’Agrosa said.
“We need those supports in our schools and in our classrooms.”
Just down the street at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School, David Opiola and fellow teachers held signs with the number 39.
“We lost six-and-a-half teachers,” Opiola said. “That works out to 39 fewer class sections that are available for students.”
The DCDSB responded to the one-day strike, saying it respects the bargaining process but regrets any disruption Tuesday’s job action caused.
The last time OECTA and the province met was Jan. 9, 2020.
No other meetings have been planned.
The money being offered to parents, meanwhile, isn’t sitting well with the union.
“The money would be better suited going back into the classroom to help fix the cuts, to help provide additional services for students instead of trying to drive an additional wedge between parents and teachers,” said Melissa Cowen, OECTA Durham president.