The province is "very hopeful" Ontario's public elementary school teachers will decide to bring back extra-curricular activities when their union leaders meet this week, Education Minister Liz Sandals said.
"We've been having good, positive conversations with the elementary teachers," Ms. Sandals said. "The elementary teachers will be having discussions this week among their executives and president, so we're obviously awaiting the results of those meetings."
Queen's Park has offered the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario the same deal that prompted secondary school teachers to bring back extra-curricular activities this week – an agreement to craft a new collective bargaining process, Premier Kathleen Wynne said.
Both unions withdrew voluntary services last year when the government brought in legislation that imposed new contracts on them. Last week, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation voted to resume extra-curriculars after making a bargain with the government, following several meetings with Ms. Wynne's staff. Under the deal, the two sides will create a new, more formalized collective bargaining system that gives school boards some say while also involving the province.
The premier said talks with the elementary teachers are unfolding along similar lines.
"We've had the same discussion with ETFO as we have had with OSSTF, that we are committed to working with them on a process going forward," she said.
Ms. Wynne and Ms. Sandals met Wednesday with four student trustees. After the sit-down, the premier said that at some schools on Monday, teachers were already issuing permission forms for clubs, sports teams were being reinstated and at least one scheduled swim meet was back on.
Student trustee Hirad Zafari, a grade 12 student at Don Mills Collegiate in Toronto, credited Ms. Wynne with resolving the problem.
"I know for a fact there is a new direction with a new leader, with a new minister of education, there have been different steps. We can't close our eyes to the fact that it took six months without any action, and now it only took two weeks for this new leadership to take action in the right direction," he said.
"Hopefully our teachers will follow suit and hear out what their leaders have said. Our hope is we can get back to the spring sports, and we can even salvage some of the sports and clubs from before this announcement."
The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, girded for battle with the teachers' unions, pledging to take away their ability to work-to-rule and haul union leadership before disciplinary hearings if the party wins the next election.
PC education critic Lisa MacLeod moved a motion in the legislature Tuesday to expand teachers' job descriptions to include such things as one-on-one instruction outside class and parent-teacher interviews. The Liberal government and the New Democrats teamed up to defeat the motion, 62 to 35.
Ms. MacLeod and Tory leader Tim Hudak that, if they win the next election, they would bring in legislation to bar unions from forcing members to work to rule. Any union leader found trying to compel teachers to work to rule would be brought before the Ontario College of Teachers.
"There are teachers who want to teach, who are uncomfortable with those union activists' actions, we're going to make sure we stand up for them and that's what we've been doing," Ms. MacLeod said.
"Unions have a role: they're there for collective bargaining, they're there to make sure that their members are treated fairly, they're there to negotiate health and safety. But the teachers' unions are not there to run the education system," added Mr. Hudak.
The Tories' proposed law would also add such things as report cards, after-school help for struggling students and parent-teacher interviews to a teacher's job description.