Trillium Lakelands District School Board has effectively decided to put a hold on secondary school extracurricular activities in the wake of a protracted battle between the province and unions.

TLDSB announced Jan. 29 it would request all secondary extra-curricular activities be scheduled outside of the instructional day. This stands to stands to impact most extracurricular activities, including sports, which tend to take place during the school day.

Director of Education Larry Hope said TLDSB has heard sporting events may not be rescheduled. He said the decision was made to protect classroom programming in the wake of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) pulling back from on-calls Jan. 20, meaning teachers will not cover for absent colleagues.

“We know this is unpopular … We did not take this decision lightly and are aware that this is not an ideal situation,” Hope said. “Our decision was made with the goal of protecting classroom programming to the fullest extent possible. For us, this means we want to make use of the limited number of secondary supply teachers to support classroom programming first and foremost.”

Hope explained that the OSSTF action means absent teachers must now be covered by supply teachers or school administration. Given that situation, Hope said TLDSB seeks to reduce absenteeism via extracurricular activities.

“For TLDSB, the ongoing challenge is being able to cover classes when these things occur. By reducing or eliminating the known absenteeism of our staff, we feel we are in a much better position to adequately maintain classroom programming,” he said in a release.

OSSTF District 15 president Colin Matthew pushed back against the decision, noting all school boards across the province face the same situation but no others he is aware of took this step.

He said although TLDSB would like activities to be rescheduled, given it competes against other boards willing to play during the day, that is “highly unlikely.”

“Disappointment,” Matthew said. “Frustration that we’re the only board doing this.”

He said the decision came down Jan. 21, resulting in hockey games getting cancelled in Fenelon Falls and Huntsville. The impact has not yet been felt more widely due to sports being on a moratorium during exams, but they were due to pick again Feb. 3.

Matthew reported that parents flooded the TLDSB board of trustees meeting in Lindsay Jan. 28 to protest.

“It’s a bizarre decision,” he said. “The community is disappointed.”

Elementary school students are also on the verge of losing out on extracurricular activities.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) announced it would escalate its withdrawal of services starting Feb. 3. While teachers previously were not taking part in extra-curricular activities outside the school day, they will now no longer take part in them at any time.

One-day rotating strikes are also set to continue. TLDSB elementary schools are set to close Feb. 3 and Feb. 6 due to strikes unless a deal can be reached between ETFO and the province.

The Highlander will update this story as more information is made available.

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