Children will be heading to elementary schools on Tuesday across Canada as the new school year begins after the long summer holiday.
However, in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, some 817,000 children to begin classes in the provinces public school system.
However, how long they may remain in school is in some doubt. Elementary school teachers are in negotiations with school boards and the province.
Talks between the 76,000 member ElementaryTeachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and officials continue on Tuesday as the threat of a strike remain possible.
The union could walk out at any time after giving five days notice.
The ETFO has been in negotiations and operating without a contract since August 2014.
The province has adopted a policy of “net zero” in that any wage increases to teachers must be the result of equivalent savings elsewhere.
Public elementary school teachers in the province have already been advised by the union to work-to-rule meaning refraining from organizing field trips, meet with parents nights, fund-raising activites, and various administrative duties
Issues include, wages, class size and the use of “preparation time”, which has been negotiated previously as about 48 minutes per day in Ontario
The teachers say they want the right to decide how they use the time and not school boards and principals (directors of individual schools). They fear that princiapals may assign them to use the time to fill in for absent teachers rather than spend the time preparing lessons or even just going to the washroom.
They say prep time involves everything from marking papers, to meeting with a student who has been bullied, to organizing trips, to updating homework websites, to meeting with principals, to consulting on various issues with colleagues.
Tentative deals have been reached with Ontario’s Catholic school teacher’s unions, and with the secondary school (high school) teacher’s union although talks also continue with the French teachers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees which represents school support staff such as custodians, educational assistants and early childhood educators.
Typical (approx.) week for Ontario elementary-school teacher
-25 hours per week teaching class (5hr/day)
-40 min/day for lunch
-15-20 min/day supervising students outside class (80min/week)\
-prep-48min/day (not necessarily same each day but 240min/wk)