Ottawa's Catholic School Board is warning parents to prepare for schools to be closed on Monday.
The board has sent letters to parents telling them if a deal isn't reached between the provincial government and CUPE over the weekend, buses will be cancelled and schools shut down.
The good news is that the two sides in this dispute are meeting Friday afternoon and into the weekend.
The bad news is that if there's no deal, boards across this province will have to make some tough decisions about classes.
The picket signs are being prepared at a CUPE office in west-end Ottawa. The possibility of a strike looms large Monday morning.
“We want to encourage government to realize this,” says Sherry Wallace, the President of CUPE 2357, “We need to put the funding back into schools and we need to be getting that fair deal and putting the services back so we can support the students.”
Just two days after launching a work to rule campaign, the union representing 55,000 educational support workers will be off the job unless a deal can be reached by midnight Sunday.
Ottawa's Catholic board is one of many to announce plans to shut schools if there's no deal.
“CUPE represents about 1300 full-time employees and nearly 1000 casual workers in the Ottawa Catholic Board, " they said in a statement. "We did not feel we could safely operate our schools without their services."
Outside St. Paul high school in Ottawa, students aren't quite sure what to think.
“If schools are shut down you can't get your education and that kind of concerns me,” says Grade 11 student Nathan Lewandowski.
Grade 9 student Joey Mesa says, “I know some students will be excited because they'll miss school on Monday. I wouldn’t want to miss math class,” he adds, “That’s about it, though.”
“If we're missing school,” says Grade 10 student Naliya Scharf, “I'm chill with it.”
Elsewhere in the province, parents, however, aren't so chill.
“If the schools close Monday morning,” said one mother, “I'll work from home.”
“We've applied extra pressure,” said Laura Walton, the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, “Boards are making contingency plans to close on Monday. They're citing the value of the work in our schools; without us there, the schools can't continue.”
The provincial government, however, says it's working hard to avoid a strike.
“We want to make sure they remain in class on Monday,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, “It is our government’s singular priority to keep kids in class.”
The Upper Canada School Board says CUPE members represent 40% of its board's workforce. The board has announced all schools will be closed on Monday if CUPE members go on strike.
Then Thursday morning, students attending Almonte District Highschool in that board arrived to find angry messages spray-painted on their school; messages directed at CUPE. Police are investigating. And while all this labor strife is going on, the province's elementary school teachers are holding central strike votes including one here in Ottawa Thursday evening.
“It doesn't necessarily mean we will be going out on strike or going out on picket line or doing job action,” said Elizabeth Kettle, the Ottawa-Carleton Teacher Local President, “it just gives us strong mandate for the bargaining team when they're sitting across from the government.”
School boards are advising students and parents to watch for updates on this situation and make contingency plans in the event of a strike.