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London, Ont. school boards to switch to remote learning should CUPE strike take place Monday

FILE PHOTO. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

London-area school boards say they will close their schools and switch to remote learning should a second walkout take place on Monday involving thousands of Ontario education workers.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said Wednesday that it had filed a five-day strike notice after talks broke down again with the province. The union represents more than 50,000 education workers across the province.

The province has directed school boards to “implement contingency plans.” Boards impacted by a work withdrawal should “carefully assess how best to ensure student safety and continuity of learning,” a provincial memo reads.

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.

Read more: Ontario memo directs school boards to ‘implement contingency plans’ after CUPE strike notice

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In a statement Thursday, the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) said that it wouldn’t be able to keep schools open safely for in-person learning in the event of another strike and that instead, students would be provided real-time, teacher-led synchronous instruction online.

There would be no change for students taking part in full remote, and/or virtual learning, the board said. Students in some secondary specialized programs would also see no change.

“Families are encouraged to refer to the course or classroom’s digital learning platform (Google Classroom or Brightspace) or contact their child’s teacher for information about Monday’s learning,” the board said.

“Families with an urgent need will be provided technology starting Monday, November 21, 2022. School staff will let families know when devices are ready to be picked up which may be later in the week depending on school community needs and technology availability.”

Board officials say before and after school programs will also be cancelled, and child-care centres and EarlyON Family Centres at TVDSB schools will be closed until further notice.

Thames Valley board officials say they’re hopeful that negotiations this weekend will be productive and that a deal will be reached late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

“Updates will be provided as we become aware; a final decision will be made by 6:00 a.m. Monday, November 21, 2022,” the board’s statement reads.

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

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The London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) has said it too will close schools and cancel in-person classes in the event of a strike.

In a statement Wednesday, LDCSB said that if a deal was not reached by early Monday, student learning would be done asynchronously from home. The board’s office will be open, but staff will work remotely if possible.

Students engaged in virtual learning will see no changes to their normal daily schedule, the board said.

“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.”

Distribution and management of devices, and software and hardware support can not be administered as most of the board’s IT support staff are CUPE members, the board said.

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

In addition to schools, other board programs will also be closed or cancelled, including before- and after-school programs, family centres, co-op placements, after-school tutoring, internal language programs, community use of schools, and St. Patrick Adult and Continuing Education.

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Read more: Parents could be in limbo until Sunday as possible education workers’ strike looms

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London French-language students will also be staying home in the event of a strike.

Conseil scolaire Viamonde said Thursday that the board would roll out its remote learning plan if the threat of a strike materialized.

The board would be unable to guarantee a clean and safe environment for students in the absence of CUPE janitorial staff, said Michel Laverdiere, the board’s acting director of education, in a notice sent home to parents.

Like TVDSB and LDCSB, CSC Viamonde says school transportation will be cancelled, before- and after-school care services will be unavailable, and extracurricular activities will be paused. Students taking part in the VIAvirtuel program will continue learning as usual, the board said.

French Catholic students will also see virtual learning, according to a notice Wednesday from Conseil scolaire catholique Providence.

Asynchronous learning will be offered starting on Monday for students kindergarten to grade 12, the board said.

Both Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire catholique Providence say they will provide further updates on their website and

— with files from The Canadian Press

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