Public elementary schools in Kingston and much of eastern Ontario outside Ottawa will close next Wednesday due to continued strikes by teachers, barring a deal between the province and the teachers’ union.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced Friday it has served notice to four school boards including the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) and the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) that its members plan to walk off the job on Jan. 29.
The UCDSB, which almost totally surrounds the City of Ottawa in Ontario, has confirmed there will be no classes or transportation for students in kindergarten to Grade 8 that day if there’s no progress at the bargaining table.
That includes Grade 7 and 8 students who attend classes at secondary schools within the board.
Similarly, the Kingston area’s LDSB released a statement saying all elementary and intermediate students from kindergarten to Grade 8 should not report to school on Wednesday.
Secondary schools in both school districts will remain open.
The Belleville-area Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board’s ETFO members are planning to strike Tuesday, meaning students from kindergarten to Grade 8 won’t have classes.
Parents are asked to check with child-care providers about their status.
ETFO represents full-time and occasional teachers in those boards and has around 76,000 members across the province.
Its members began rolling strikes this week, including a walkout in Ottawa on Monday.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said the key sticking point in negotiations with high school teachers is compensation, with the union demanding a roughly two-per-cent wage increase and the government offering one per cent.
The union says the strikes aren’t about wages, but are focused on preventing larger class sizes and increasing supports for children with special needs.
“ETFO is very disappointed that [Premier] Ford’s Education Minister Lecce has not come back to the bargaining table to negotiate key issues affecting students, student learning and educators,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a news release.
“It is now 36 days since ETFO’s last bargaining session.”
Four of Ontario’s major education unions took part in job action this week, including rotating strikes by three of them.
In a press conference this morning in Mississauga, Ont., Ford criticized the leadership of the teachers’ unions and said his government had made a number of concessions during negotiations.
 He said his patience is wearing thin but that he’s not yet willing to force teachers back to work through legislation.