Universities launch a special task force to draw up a game plan as high school strikes threaten to drag into summer
Universities scramble to deal with high school strikes
Richard Lautens / Toronto Star File Photo
Durham College has decided to offer admission to students from strike-affected schools based on midterm marks, not final.
Trent University’s Oshawa campus is considering special summer workshops in writing and math for incoming students from Durham Region who have missed weeks of class due to the strike.
The Ontario Universities’ Applications Centre (OUAC) is prepared to work into summer to send universities final marks — when available — from the three school boards hit by walkouts by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.
Scrambling to deal with the first school strikes in Ontario ever to threaten to drag into summer, universities have launched a special school strike task force to draw up a game plan.
“We’ve created a task force to troubleshoot together with two individuals from every university in the province — registrars, directors of admissions — who will be available on short notice if there is a development on the labour dispute,” said Ryerson University Registrar Charmaine Hack, co-chair of the new group.
Yet it is unclear what will happen if the strikes stretch into the summer, said George Grainger, executive director of OUAC.
“Everyone wants to shield these innocent students from circumstances they can’t control, but if worse comes to worse and the strikes do last to June 30, what would the school boards do?” he asked. “In theory that could be a jeopardy situation and I imagine directors of educations and the education ministry would have to decide the requirements for graduating, but the difficulty is, right now it’s all speculative.
“Late processing we can handle, but for now we’re playing the waiting game.”
The three school boards hit by strikes — Durham (on strike since April 20), Rainbow District (April 27) and Peel (May 4) — were able to send in Grade 12 students’ midterm marks by the April 23 deadline so many offers have gone out as usual, said Grainger. But most are conditional on students not only graduating but hitting a minimum final average, and it is not clear whether missing half the second term, as students could do in Durham, would be something the province or post-secondary institutions could overlook.
“If the strike were to last, universities could be looking at students who have three second-semester courses that are only partially completed; it’s an unfortunate set of circumstances,” said Grainger, noting some courses, such as calculus and algebra, are critical for many university programs. Universities make their offers by May 28 and students must accept or decline by June 1, but universities and colleges have said they’ll be flexible for students in boards hit by strikes.
But the fate of the 7,100 Grade 12 students in Durham Region and 9,000 in Peel is very much up in the air.
Durham College, 60 per cent of whose students come from Durham Region, will accept students based on midterm marks, but if they haven’t graduated by Aug. 22 the college won’t be able to admit them and would issue a refund, said Meri Kim Oliver, vice-president of student affairs.
“This is a very anxious time for students and parents,” she said.
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology offers summer boot camps for math that might be particularly useful this year for students who have missed some math because of the strike, said Olivia Petrie, assistant vice-president of student life.
The university task force hopes to have compiled a list of summer prep courses at every university “as a central resource for students; a little extra foundation for those who have not had as much class time or (teacher) help with material,” said Hack. They won’t be high school credits but rather preparatory courses, workshops and even websites to bolster the skills and confidence of students who have missed weeks of class.
“For Ryerson, we need to know what subject areas might be the most helpful (for remedial help) if they’ve missed some of that foundational work.”