MSS extracurriculars gradually returning to normal, reflecting Ontario’s dance with teachers’ groups

ONTARIO—Both the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) have been back in the news in recent days, with both provincial organizations seemingly making progress with Ontario’s new Liberal government.

Last Tuesday it was announced that the ETFO had revised its advice to members regarding the withdrawal of extracurricular activities in Ontario public schools. In a message from Premier Kathleen Wynne, she said she was pleased with the news, adding: “I hope that elementary school students, teachers and support staff across the province will once again enjoy the activities and programs that mean so much to them.”

“Today’s news is a great indication of the hard work all parties are putting into the repair of this valued relationship,” the premier continued. “It shows our willingness to work together, to listen to one another’s concerns, and to find common ground on which we can rebuild a foundation of trust and create an effective process going forward.”

“Our government has immense respect for the educators of this province and we recognize the important role they play in our children’s lives and in communities across Ontario,” the premier added.

“Of course, we have been clear that this issue needs to be addressed within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework,” Premier Wynne continued. “But I am confident that our government’s commitment to fairness, consistency and respect in our conversations with ETFO and all our partners will continue to result in real work being done for the people of Ontario.”

When contacted for comment, Rainbow Teacher Local President Barb Blasutti explained there was currently a media blackout until a Wednesday meeting between union leaders.

On Good Friday, the OSSTF met with the province and reached an agreement in principle which, again because of a media blackout, has left details somewhat lacking. Sticking areas between the federation and the province include sick leave, maternity leave, retirement gratuity, unpaid days and local bargaining. The contract imposed on teachers by the government earlier this year reduced sick days and froze salaries, prompting teachers to also withhold extracurriculars.

In late February, the OSSTF voted to resume extracurricular activities, with its individual members left with the option of resuming voluntary activities as they wished.

When contacted by The Expositor, Manitoulin Secondary School principal Laurie Zahnow said, “We are slowly getting our extracurriculars back,” noting there are field trips in the works.

“We’re looking for a badminton coach right now and track and field will happen across the board and CrossFit is back,” the principal continued. “And gymnastics is back with a competition coming up soon.”

When asked if MSS is looking for volunteers, the principal replied that the school is always looking for parent/guardian volunteers to assist staff members.

“We’re definitely not as busy as we were a year ago, but it’s definitely coming back,” Ms. Zahnow enthused. “I expect that by September it will again be the vibrant school it always is.”

Alicia McCutcheon