UPDATE: Online learning for Hamilton public board; Catholic students get 2 more days of it


Published November 4, 2022 at 9:49 pm

The largest two Hamilton school boards, which both have as much idea as anyone whether the CUPE-OSBCU strike will continue next week, are continuing to make contingency plans.

The job action that began Friday affects the boards differently. Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is contracted with the union for custodial and maintenance workers, about 500 of whom have walked off the job. The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) has about 1,000 employees who are out and work across a smaller number of schools.

As such, Hamilton English public schools stayed open on Friday, while English Catholic schools pivoted to online learning with some synchronous instruction.

On Friday evening, HWDSB announced that after one day without those approximately 500 workers, its schools will also going online as of Monday. Students will have independent learning before “remote, real-time learning” begins on Tuesday (Nov. 8).

Hour earlier, HWCDSB informed all families and students that it is committed to “online learning which will include
some synchronous instruction” for Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 7-8). The Catholic board will make the call on whether/how long it must stay online no later than Monday.

Ontario students have already missed more days of in-person learning than their counterparts in every other Canadian and U.S. jurisdiction since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Premier Doug Ford and his PC Party of Ontario (PCPO) government have entrusted schooling to Education Minister Stephen Lecce since June 2019.

HWDSB: province not ‘respectful’

The HWDSB stated that “(c)lassroom educators will connect with students and families” and all school staff who are not part of CUPE-OSBCU will report to their school on Monday, while “(a)dditional staff will be assigned to schools for cleaning and maintenance tasks.”

The public schools are also pausing all athletics and other extra-curricular activities including arts, club and after-school tutoring, until further notice.

The Ontario government has run media ads recently saying students would be in class and would have extra-curricular activities, which teachers and staff members do voluntarily.

The public board first stated Thursday that it would notify HWDSB families by Sunday if they need to close schools to in‐person learning on Monday (Nov. 7). The public board added it is “monitoring the conditions of schools during the job action.”

Re-elected HWDSB Ward 7 trustee Dawn Danko, who was chair in the last term, told CBC Hamilton that she visited one of the CUPE-OBSCU picket lines on Friday. In the same report, a CUPE-OSBCU local leader expressed doubt about how long schools could stay open safety.

As it turns out, that was one day.

The letter on Thursday to HWDSB families, director of education Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini characterized the Premier Ford and Minister Lecce’s Bill 128 back-to-work legislation as less than “respectful” and suggested its tactics involved intimidation. On Thursday, the province invoked the notwithstanding clause of the charter in order to a pass a bill banning a strike before it actually started.

“We are disappointed that the Government of Ontario passed this legislation removing our labour partners’ rights to engage in the collective bargaining process,” Robinson Pettrazini stated. “An agreement should be respectful towards education workers, mutually agreed upon by both parties, and free from intimidation.”

Catholic board to make call no later on Monday

The announcement from HWCDSB who need a device for online learning should contact their school principal. After-hours programming, student transportation and (as of Monday) Catholic Youth Organization sports are either cancelled or to be rescheduled. School sports are still on.

“We regret very much the impact these circumstances have on students, families and our staff,” a letter cosigned by HWDSB director of education David Hansen and board chair Patrick J. (Pat) Daly states. “We are as well extremely disappointed that we are currently unable to provide with certainty the status of the labour dispute for Monday and beyond. Saying that, system and school staff have been working extremely hard to develop contingency plans for next week. The focus of these plans remains on student learning and well-being.”

The public board’s alert says all authorized recreation programs at its schools are cancelled.

Early Learning and Child Care centres (Birth to age 3.8) will be open during the school day only in both boardds.
EarlyON Child and Family Centres and all licensed before‐ and after‐school programs are also affected.

Social work services will not be available during the labour disruption. In HCWDSB’s letter on Friday, it noted that family with a child who is in immediate crisis can contact COAST (905-972-8338), 911 or attend McMaster Children’s Hospital emergency department.

Updates from the boards will be available at hwcdsb.ca/labourupdates and hwdsb.on.ca.

The CUPE-OSBCU acronym stands for Canadian Union of Public Employees — Ontario School Board Council of Unions. Women comprise 70 per cent of its 55,000 member workers.

All four Ontario teacher unions are seeking intervenor status in the strike. Their contracts are also up for negotiation soon. The province’s legal counsel has objected to the intervenor application.

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