LDCSB schools to be closed Monday in event of second CUPE walkout, board officials say

London District Catholic School Board's Catholic Education Centre on Wellington Road. Google Maps

London District Catholic School Board schools will be closed to students and in-school classes will be cancelled on Monday should a deal not be reached between the province and the union representing thousands of Ontario education workers, board officials said Wednesday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents more than 50,000 Ontario education workers, announced on Wednesday that it had filed a five-day strike notice, saying talks with the province had broken down again.

The two sides had been at the negotiating table for two full days, with the strike notice coming two weeks after their last walkout ended.

CUPE officials said Wednesday that while both sides had agreed to a wage increase of about 3.59 per cent per year for all workers, it was still looking for guarantees of higher staffing levels for educational assistants, librarians, custodians, and secretaries.

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In a statement, LDCSB officials said that if a deal is not reached by early Monday, schools will be closed, and student learning will be done asynchronously from home. Students taking part in virtual learning will see no changes to their normal schedule.

“As a precaution, students should bring home personal belongings, eyeglasses, medication, textbooks, musical instruments, etc. on Thursday, November 17. Friday is a PA Day in the LDCSB,” the update sent home to parents reads.

The board says daycare centres, before- and after-school programs, family centres, co-op placements, after-school tutoring and international language programs would also be cancelled or closed, as will Community Use of Schools and St. Patrick Adult and Continuing Education.

“The Board office would be open, although staff would work remotely if possible. Meetings and events would be held virtually or rescheduled,” the board advisory said.

Some 1,300 of the Catholic board’s 3,500 workers are part of CUPE, including educational assistants, designated early childhood educators, school office staff, custodial and maintenance staff, and others.

“We cannot safely operate schools with so many employees absent,” the board said.

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Most of the board’s IT support staff are also CUPE members. As a result, the board says the distribution and management of devices, and software and hardware support can not be administered.

“Schools will try to coordinate distribution from the inventory they have. Please note there are a limited number of available devices,” the board’s advisory states.

The Thames Valley District School Board said it expects to have more information for parents and guardians on Thursday, but says it remains optimistic a deal can be reached.

CUPE education workers walked off the job for two days earlier this month after the province passed a law which imposed a contract on the workers and banned them from striking.

The government repealed the law on Monday.

— with files from Liam Casey and Allison Jones of The Canadian Press.

Click to play video: 'Ontario’s education minister “disappointed” in CUPE strike notice'
Ontario’s education minister “disappointed” in CUPE strike notice

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