Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) will shut down all of its schools Oct. 7 if the planned support staff strike goes ahead.

The board announced the measure Oct. 4, in the wake of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) declaring strike action unless a deal with the province is reached before Monday.  

In a statement, the board said they considered the situation carefully.

“Trillium Lakelands District School Board has carefully assessed the potential impact on school operations and determined that student safety cannot be ensured,” the board said in a release.

The closure applies to all elementary and secondary schools, as well as adult and alternate education centres.

“We understand that this can be very frustrating for families and hope that a provincial agreement with CUPE will be reached very soon,” the board said.

Local CUPE 997 president William Campbell said his members are supportive of the strike action, which they voted overwhelmingly in favour of Sept. 7.

He said he thinks the public supports them, even in the wake of school closures.

“The public understands we’re standing up not only for our members’ working conditions, but we’re standing up for the working conditions of the students,” Campbell said. “The schools don’t have the support because there’s reduced staffing, because of layoffs and cuts. If the schools aren’t as clean because they’ve cut custodial hours, I think the students suffer as well.”

Provincial funding cuts and declining enrolment prompted TLDSB in June to lay off the full-time equivalent of 54 support staff positions, including four educational assistants in Haliburton County.

TLDSB is advising families to make alternate arrangements for their children and watch for any notifications of changes in the situation prior to Oct. 7.

The school closures also mean an end to community use permits, which the board is cancelling after Oct. 4. Daycares within TLDSB schools that “rely on CUPE staff to provide services within the contracted area” will also be closed Monday until the job action is over.

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