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What Ontario parents need to know about schools, busing today

Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten, shown at the Globe and Mail building in Toronto on Monday.

FERNANDO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Ontario parents woke up to mass confusion Friday morning about the state of school openings given the eleventh-hour decision that a planned walkout by teachers constituted an illegal strike.

Here are some things you need to know:

  • Schools in the Toronto District School Board are open, but the board is not providing bus service.
  • The York Region Board also said its elementary schools would be open, but their buses would remain cancelled.
  • Schools in Durham, Peel, Waterloo and Hastings Prince Edward are open today and buses are running on normal bus schedules.

  • Schools in Ottawa are closed for regular instruction, but any children who are dropped off will be given alternate activities for the day.

The Toronto board's decision to open schools was a reversal of an earlier move to cancel classes. Officials changed course Friday after 6 a.m., citing a decision by union officials to advise teachers to report for work.

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"When it became clear that teachers would be at work and that there would be sufficient supervision of students, the decision was made to open schools," Mr. Bird said.

However, he said the late decision meant "it was just impossible" to activate the bus system.

Indeed, board officials seemed to be scrambling Friday morning after the Ontario Labour Relations Board handed down its ruling around 4 a.m. EST saying that the one-day walkout would be illegal. Chris Bolton, chairman of the TDSB appeared on CBC Radio's Metro Morning around 6:10 a.m., saying schools would be closed. Ten minutes later, he called back to say that schools would be open.

Toronto Police are warning that there will be a reduced presence by crossing guards around many schools, which could raise the risk for pedestrians.

"Traffic Services is notifying the public that there will be limited school crossing guards available today at TDSB elementary and junior high school designated crossing areas," police said in a statement early Friday. "Parents and care-givers should review pedestrian safety with their children ... motorists are being asked to pay particular attention to these normally controlled crossing areas."

Early reaction on social media on the confusion focused less on the hassle caused parents and more on the disappointment to children hoping for a long weekend.

" Unhappy kids after told school is back on & have to go," a person identified as Tracy Chisholm wrote on Twitter. " 'No school' day is utopia for kids - would be easier to tell them about Santa!"

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Another person took a more sardonic approach, offering a sarcastic shout-out to the TDSB for "getting the kids hopes up, then crushing it last minute, that's dissing."

Speaking to CP24, ETFO President Sam Hammond called the frustration to parents "unfortunate" but said he had no say in whether the schools were to open Friday.

"I leave it up to the boards to make those decisions," he said early Friday.

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Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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