The director of education of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), Jennifer Adams, has been given the go-ahead to authorize school closures if recent labour disputes pose threats to students’ safety.
School board trustees voted at a meeting Tuesday night, in response to job action by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), as part of a work-to-rule campaign against the provincial government. Some teachers have begun withdrawing voluntary services, including participation in extra-curricular activities, to protest measures by the government to freeze wages and reduce sick days.
“This is a proactive measure,” Jennifer McKenzie, chairwoman of the OCDSB, told the Ottawa Citizen. “We understand the need to keep schools open and we’re doing everything possible to ensure they stay open.”
Principals and vice principals have taken over some of the administrative and supervisory duties, McKenzie says, and she stresses the schools are safe.
“Staff are keeping things well under control,” she said.
The motion also comes after two fires were discovered at South Carleton High School on Nov. 12 and 13 in a washroom and a hallway. Ottawa police are investigating the incidents and OCDSB superintendent Frank Wiley told the CBC they do not know whether the fires were set intentionally.
“We are working to ensure the students attending our schools are first of all safe, and they are healthy and in their classroom and they’re learning,” he said.