Ontario memo orders school boards make ‘every effort’ to keep classrooms open

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Labour dispute between CUPE and Ontario government heats up
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As the possibility of a prolonged strike by unionized Ontario education workers looms, the province is instructing school boards to put backup plans in place.

A memo from the Ministry of Education, obtained by Global News, instructs school board to implement plans that make sure “every effort is made to keep schools open for as many children as possible.”

The memo says a key priority for the province is to “continue their learning uninterrupted for the entirety of the school year,” a line education minister Stephen Lecce has repeated since the academic year began.

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For school boards where a strike by workers represented by Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) means schools must close, the province is demanding “a speedy transition to remote learning.”

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That remote learning should be live, the memo says. Many school boards, including the Toronto District School Board, have told parents there will be no live virtual teaching on Friday.

“Unless other circumstances exist that require closure, schools must also remain open to staff, who are expected to attend their workplace as usual, and in particular to support synchronous online learning,” the memo says.

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The order to school boards comes as parents prepare for many schools to close on Friday when CUPE workers are expected walk out. Boards including Toronto, York and Peel have said a strike would force them to close buildings.

The Ontario government is in the process of passing legislation that will outlaw CUPE’s proposed strike and impose a contract on workers, Lecce confirmed Thursday afternoon.

In defiance of that proposed legislation, the union has said it will strike Friday “until further notice.”

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