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At the Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) in December, the Ontario Public School Boards' Association (OPSBA) final offer included a section related to Regulation 298. Reg 298 outlines a variety of requirements related to how schools should operate, and the duties of principals, vice-principals, and teachers.

One clause in the regulation states that teachers shall "...be present in the classroom or teaching area and ensure that the classroom or teaching area is ready for the reception of pupils at least fifteen minutes before the commencement of classes in the school in the morning and, where applicable, five minutes before the commencement of classes in the school in the afternoon."

But what does this clause actually mean? For many years school boards have interpreted it to mean that teachers must be in their classrooms ready to receive students 15 minutes before classes begin in the morning, and 5 minutes before classes begin in the afternoon. That interpretation has been challenged by the federation on numerous occasions through the arbitration process. ETFO's interpretation has always been that the regulation requires teachers to be present in the school preparing to receive students when the bell rings and classes begin. In every case, the federation has won these arbitrations and its interpretation of the regulation has been upheld.

Unfortunately for teachers in the French and Catholic systems, their PDT agreements with their respective school board associations included clauses related to Reg 298.

The impact of including such clauses in collective agreements is quickly becoming apparent.

In his current tour of locals, ETFO President David Clegg has recounted again and again how, just prior to entering PDT talks with OPSBA, he was warned against accepting a "Reg 298 clause" by an OECTA local leader. Apparently this leader's school board has begun allowing students into classrooms 15 minutes before the bell in the morning, and five minutes before the bell in the afternoon.

This week we received the following excerpt from a newsletter sent home to parents from the French Board in Peel: "Beginning Jan 5, we will use new procedures for morning entry. Students will go directly to their classrooms after leaving the bus. Teachers will be in their classrooms from 9:05 to welcome students so they are ready to work when the bell goes at 9:20."

By including a clause related to Reg 298 in their final offer, OPSBA clearly intended to add 100 minutes of supervision time to the schedule of every public elementary teacher in the province. This is but one of the contract strips OPSBA proposed at the Provincial Discussion Table in December. For a full analysis of OPSBA's final offer, please visit the ETFO website.