STF announces 1-day withdrawal of noon-hour supervision services, plus 2nd round of rotating strikes

Prince Albert teachers hold up signs and wave to passing drivers as the first day of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation rotating strike hit Prince Albert on Feb. 1, 2024. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Saskatchewan teachers will not provide noon-hour supervision as part of a province-wide withdrawal of services scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation made the announcement Monday morning. STF president Samantha Becotte said teachers understand the one-day withdrawal will be inconvenient for parents. She added that anyone who is concerned about the impact should contact their MLAs and school board trustees.

“A decade of government funding cuts has meant parents in several school divisions are forced to pay out-of-pocket fees of $100 or more for their kids to stay at school over the noon hour,” Becotte said in a press release. “School boards face the impossible task of balancing government funding shortfalls and the rising costs of services that students need.

“Students and families are caught in the middle, and I encourage every parent and caregiver in the province to let our government officials know how they feel about that.”

Becotte said teachers often provide lunch break supervision, but it’s done on a voluntary basis. On Thursday, teachers will leave the building during the designated lunch break. School divisions will instead be responsible for student safety over the noon hour.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division responded to the announcement by urging students to go home for lunch if possible. In a letter sent out Monday afternoon, Education Director Neil Finch wrote that they will have a plan for students who cannot go home for lunch, although that plan will look different for each school.

However, Finch also acknowledge there may be some cases where parents would have to pick up their children for lunch.

“If there are no staff with the skills and ability to supervise students with specific safety needs, the family will be communicated with by the school team,” Finch wrote. “In those situations, parents/caregivers will need to make alternate arrangements for their child to be picked up over the lunch break.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and hardship that this may continue to cause for students and families.”

Elementary school students will be allowed to stay at school for lunch, Prince Albert Catholic School Division Executive Director Lorel Trumier wrote in an open letter posted on the division’s website, however high school students must leave the school from 12:14 to 1:14 p.m.

Trumier wrote that support staff and non-STF staff would provide supervision during the Thursday noon hour. She added that the withdrawal of services would not impact recess supervision, or before and after school supervision.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill spoke to the media on Monday following the STF announcement. Cockrill told reporters the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee is reviewing its first offer, but their relationship with the STF is becoming strained.

The STF also announced a second round of rotating teacher strikes scheduled for Wednesday. The strike action includes teachers in the Creighton School Division, Northern Lights School Division, Prairie Spirit School Division, and Greater Saskatoon Catholic and Saskatoon Public Schools.

“(The) government thinks they can wait us out, but they have failed to account for the most important factors,” Becotte said following the rotating strike announcement on Sunday. “Teachers are fed up and are united. There is strong and growing support for the action we’re taking because students, parents, businesses, and communities know we all deserve better.”

The Wednesday job action will affect roughly 4,300 teachers and around 65,300 students.