CTV Ottawa: School bus cameras

The big yellow buses will be out on the roads in even greater numbers now that Ottawa’s English-language public and catholic schools are back in session.

French-language students returned to class last week, but the remaining students across the city are boarding buses Tuesday.

This brings the usual reminders from Ottawa Police to stop 20 meters away from a school bus with its lights flashing and its stop sign extended. Drivers in both directions have to stop, unless there is a raised median between oncoming lanes and the school bus.

Students in the Upper Canada District School Board have one more day off. It's a PA day for teachers. Classes resume Wednesday.

But the possibility of labour disruptions hangs over the start of the school year.

Contracts between the Province of Ontario and unions representing elementary and high school teachers expired over the weekend. None of the unions are in a legal strike position and talks are ongoing.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents approximately 55,000 educational assistants, early childhood educators, and other clerical and custodial staff in Ontario’s schools is also preparing for a walk-out. The union is expected to take strike votes this week and next to gauge whether members are in favour of job action.

Changes made by the Ford government are at the forefront of the disputes between the Province and the unions. Unions argue changes to class sizes will lead to job cuts. Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced last month the average classroom in grades 4-8 will increase by about one student per teacher to an average of 24 students, while the average high school class will increase by even less, to an average of 22.5 students per teacher. The government plans to eventually increase the number of students per high school class to an average of 28 students per teacher within four years.

The education budget for 2019-20 will be $29.8 billion, up $700-million from the previous school year, but will not increase again until 2021-22. NDP leader Andrea Horwath says this is effectively a budget cut, given that the three-year increase of $1-billion will be less than inflation.