Teachers withdraw from extracurricular activities; fall report cards delayed

Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) elementary students can no longer participate in extracurricular activities and they will not receive progress report cards in November. 

On Wednesday the board announced that due to teachers’ province-wide job action, fall progress reports would not go out as scheduled.

Local teachers are among 78,000 across the province that escalated work-to-rule strike action on Oct. 28.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has instructed teachers not to participate in any extracurricular activities until a deal is reached with the government and the Ontario Public School Board Association (OPSBA). 

“We’ve been trying … really hard to get some kind of action earlier from OPSBA and we’re hoping that … eventually this will have some impact that is more visible,” said Upper Grand ETFO president Gundi Barbour.

“We’ve been over a year without a collective agreement, we’re not getting any momentum and so … it’s time to add something more.”

The latest strike action is part of a cumulative work-to-rule directive from ETFO that began in May. 

Barbour said teachers are withdrawing from extracurricular activities “reluctantly” and she stressed those activities are voluntary. 

“They are not part of our contract, they are not part of our teaching expectations, they’re not part of the significant duties of the teaching assignment, they’re volunteer,” Barbour explained.

“They are completely voluntary … yet they’re something that we don’t like to take away because they are something that the students enjoy and the teachers enjoy.”

Union officials have repeatedly stressed throughout the work-to-rule action that teachers are trying to minimize the impact on students and families. Yet refusing to participate in extracurricular activities seems to directly impact students.

“I agree that it does have some impact, but to be honest there are many other ways that students get extra curricular activities,” Barbour said. 

“They get activities run by community groups, they get the church groups, they have Scouts and Guides and things like that [which] also provide those experiences.”

Education minister Liz Sandals said the government remains committed to negotiating an agreement. 

“Extracurriculars are a very important part of teachers’ and students’ school year experience,” she said in an email statement. “It is regrettable that job action is continuing to have a direct impact on our students and that children’s lives are being negatively affected.” 

When ETFO launched “phase three” of its job action on Sept. 18, union officials suggested rolling one-day strikes (“phase four”) could follow if no progress was made.

However, Barbour said the current refusal to take part in extracurricular activities “is the action.”

“I can’t say … that we won’t ever have rolling strikes, but that’s not something that we would like to see,” she said. 

As for progress reports, as in June, Barbour said teachers will provide only a list of marks to administrators and won’t provide any comments for the reports.

Sandals said the comments offer parents “insight into how their child is advancing in their studies at school.” 

She added, “If progress report cards are not completed by teachers in public elementary schools, there will be a full year gap between parents receiving detailed assessments of how their child is progressing and that is very concerning.”

It appears parents of UGDSB students will be among those waiting a calendar year for a full report card.

“If the current labour situation is resolved, we will reassess the status of the fall progress reports,” the UGDSB stated in an Oct. 28 press release. 

“However, if job action continues, there would likely be insufficient time for completion of the reports, as school staff will be focused on completing and distributing term one report cards.”

In addition to withdrawing extracurricular activities and not completing comments on report cards, teachers are currently refusing to:

  • • organize field trips;
  • • participate in fundraising activities;
  • • act as teacher designate or teacher-in-charge at any time;
  • • respond to any electronic communication from the principal or vice-principal outside the school day (except for safety issues);
  • • collect/distribute paperwork required by the school or board;
  • • attend “meet the teacher” events outside school hours;
  • • complete any paperwork to the ministry (excluding those for special needs students);
  • • participate in any in-school meetings or professional learning activities during certain professional activity (PA) days;
  • • complete year-end Ontario Student Record (OSR) activities, including filing, sorting and completion of French cards;
  • • communicate electronically or by phone with their administrator except during certain emergency situations;
  • • update class websites or blogs;
  • • do additional work during prep time; and
  • • fill in for absent teachers, with the exception of occasional teachers hired as a replacement.

“Wynne Wednesdays” will also continue with teachers taking each Wednesday to focus on instruction and nothing else. However, Barbour clarified this action item does not apply to Remembrance Day, which falls on a Wednesday this year. 

“So everything related to Remembrance Day is still carrying on,” she said.

The government, OPSBA and ETFO were in bargaining as of Tuesday, but Sandals said  unless tentative agreements are met or all job actions are stopped as negotiations continue, the government will give school boards consent on Nov. 1 to respond to ongoing strike actions (ETFO must be given five days notice).

Last week Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters school board responses could include docking teachers’ pay.