Parents upset following reversal on school closures
Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Friday, January 11, 2013 12:02PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 11, 2013 6:26PM EST
Ontario school boards faced a backlash from parents Friday over the decision to open elementary schools after an early-morning labour board ruling deemed a planned walkout by teachers to be illegal.
Because of the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s ruling, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario cancelled the protest just a few hours before it was scheduled to begin, and told its members to report to the classroom.
With teachers being told to go to work, most Ontario school boards responded between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. by alerting parents that schools would be open for the day, including the Toronto District School Board and a handful of other districts that previously assured parents that the schools would be closed, regardless of the decision.
With little notice, parents were caught off guard by the reversal, and the move set off a confusing and frustrating morning for those who had already made alternate arrangements for their children because they thought schools would be closed for the day.
Shortly after 6:30 a.m., the TDSB announced that its elementary and junior high schools would be open Friday, a day after parents were told the schools would be closed.
It didn't take long for parents to give the school board an earful on Twitter. Several tweets were directed to the TDSB's Twitter account within minutes of the announcement.
"I am furious with the ridiculous last minute decision and the poor information. Leaving families scrambling is ludicrous," tweeted Karen, a parent.
That tweet was followed up with outrage from a user named Wes: "Way to drop the ball. Parents have been scrambling to make sure their kids are looked after. Now last minute you change your minds?!"
Others came to the defence of school boards, saying the timing was not their fault.
“(But) the boards did the best they could at 4 (a.m.) with little time and notice they had to work with,” Stefan tweeted.
Some parents in Toronto were pleased to see the schools open Friday.
Patricia Policarpo, 36, said she was relieved she could take her six-year-old son to his Grade 1 class.
"I'm glad they put the school back on because figuring out what to do with my son for the whole day would have been a problem," she said.
"I didn't think there was enough notice given to begin with."
Kelly Zettel, 42, said the cancellation of walkout means a return to the usual routine for both her and her two children attending school.
"I'm relieved that I'm going to work and doing what I normally do on a Friday, and that my kids are going to be doing what they normally do on a Friday."
Some parents indicated they would keep their children at home, rather than send them to school.
During the morning, about 50 per cent of students were absent from TDSB elementary and junior high schools, acting director of education Donna Quan told CTV Toronto.
As for other GTA school boards, Peel District School Board alerted parents at about 5 a.m., while Durham District School Board made its announcement at about 5:50 a.m. and later tried to make amends with parents who were upset.
"We know many parents made arrangements and this is confusing - best we can do when the decision comes at 4 a.m.," the school board told parents in a tweet.
York Region District School Board made its announcement shortly before 6:30 a.m. The last GTA school board to give its notice, Halton District School Board, alerted parents with a tweet that was sent at about 7:15 a.m.
With files from The Canadian Press
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