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Extracurriculars may start returning to area schools

As a gesture of goodwill, some teachers might be returning to extracurricular activities this spring. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) held a vote on February 22 to suspend union action against the provincial government and the implementation of Bill 115, encouraging teachers to come back to volunteer commitments at their respective schools.

“We have been talking with the new government for some time … our feeling is that the government is open to having a real collective bargaining system,” said OSSTF Waterloo District president Rob Gascho on Tuesday.

He added that while the union feels new Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is ready to work with teachers, staff will make the final choice of whether or not to go back to volunteering their time; while many members were excited about the prospect, others are still guarded and undecided.

“I’ve had conversations with teachers that want to come back: we have to see how it plays out,” said Elmira District Secondary School principal Paul Morgan.

The timing of the recent announcement is making it difficult to make hasty decisions, especially in regards to school sports. With the winter season coming to an end, Morgan said the most likely scenario is to look ahead to next season.

“It’s really bad timing. Now we are looking at spring sports.”

As for staff, Morgan said the revival of extracurriculars will be up to the teachers who will need some time to make up their minds.

Staff has to “get their heads wrapped around what it means to them,” he said. “They are going to determine what to do on their own.”

Some sports are still in play, however, and others are getting back on track. This week the school held a meeting for a possible badminton team and EDSS girls skiing has reached a high point with the team placing third overall in the province.

The OSSTF met with local in-school representatives on February 25 to discuss the situation and give representatives more information that they could pass on to school staff the next day. As it stands, Gascho said, individual decisions by teachers will likely be made in the next few weeks.

Both elementary and high school teachers commenced political action and eventually withdrew extracurricular activities after talks failed to resolve issues surrounding the implementation of Bill 115, which imposed a wage freeze, unpaid days off and stopped the practice of banking of sick days.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) expressed optimism as well regarding further negotiations with the government, seeing the recent Speech from the Throne as having an “inclusive tone,” but has not come to a deciding vote regarding their extracurriculars.

Local union representatives took part in a conference call Thursday to discuss the future of their political actions.

Further talks “have been positive but there haven’t been any details,” said Waterloo local president Greg Weiler Tuesday.

The future face of organized school sports teams is yet to be determined, Morgan said. Waterloo County Secondary School Athletics Association (WCSSAA) sports will have to go through their regular routine by polling schools to determine if there is enough interest from staff and to form teams this spring.

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