Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ruling on Teachers' Walkout Throws Ontario School Boards, Parents into Chaos

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ruling on Teachers' Walkout Throws Ontario School Boards, Parents into Chaos

Article excerpt

Ruling on teachers' protest causes chaos


TORONTO - An Ontario labour board ruling that declared a planned elementary teachers walkout an "unlawful strike" came too late to avoid a morning of confusion and uncertainty for students, parents and school boards Friday.

Parents had gone to bed Thursday night thinking public elementary schools would be closed the next day, only to wake up to the news that the teachers called off the protest after the 4 a.m. ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Premier Dalton McGuinty put the best face on the dispute, saying the board's decision provides clarity about the illegality of teachers walking off the job to protest Bill 115, which the government used to impose contracts on school boards and educators.

"The threatened job action introduced a lot of uncertainty into the lives of young families today," McGuinty said.

"I want to thank parents for the roller-coaster ride they've been put on in recent days, not knowing exactly what would happen with respect to schools today."

As lawyers for the Liberal government and the Elementary Teachers' Federation slugged it out in a marathon session at the labour relations board -- which didn't even start until late afternoon on Thursday -- many boards decided the best option was to close schools Friday so parents could plan ahead.

But after the ruling, some boards, including Toronto, decided to open classes Friday, although many couldn't get their buses running.

Other boards _ including those in Ottawa, Windsor, Kenora and Thunder Bay _ decided there wasn't enough time to get schools operating, although some allowed parents to still drop kids off at school.

Some parents in Toronto were pleased to see the schools open Friday.

Patricia Policarpo, 36, said she was relieved she could take her six-year-old son to his Grade 1 class.

"I'm glad they put the school back on because figuring out what to do with my son for the whole day would have been a problem," she said.

"I didn't think there was enough notice given to begin with."

Kelly Zettel, 42, said the cancellation of walkout means a return to the usual routine for both her and her two children attending school.

"I'm relieved that I'm going to work and doing what I normally do on a Friday, and that my kids are going to be doing what they normally do on a Friday."

Some parents took to Twitter to express their frustration.

"So school is on? I'm keeping my kids home anyway," Sandy E of Toronto tweeted, adding, "Parents: please don't take it out on the teachers."

Paul Armstrong tweeted: "My kids won't be in school today. Our teachers told students it was a PA day..."

McGuinty said the labour board decision also prompted high school teachers to cancel the walkout they had planned for Wednesday. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation did not immediately return calls for comment Friday. …

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