High school teachers in Durham and Peel regions and Sudbury’s Rainbow District are currently on strike, meaning classes are cancelled for more than 70,000 students across the province.  Here are some quick facts to bring you up to speed about the strikes.

Why are these strikes different from others?

This is the first time teachers have negotiated their contracts since the province introduced a new two-tier bargaining system last year. The new system means two sets of negotiations take place: One at the local level between the local union and school board, and another at the provincial (central) level between the province, the provincial teachers’ union and the school board association.

What are the issues?

At the local table in Peel Region, the union is concerned about how teachers are evaluated and who gets to keep their personnel files.

The talks with the province at the central table are meant to deal with major issues, such as wages, benefits and paid sick leave. In those negotiations, teachers are concerned that the government is trying to eliminate a cap on class sizes and to dictate how and when they spend time preparing for class. In general, they are also unhappy with the Liberal government’s wage freeze.

Why are teachers striking?

In theory, the strike actions at each local board are about local issues. However the school boards say the disputes at the local level don’t warrant a strike and that teachers are really striking in order to put pressure on the province and the school board association at the central bargaining table, where the larger issues are decided.

How are students affected?

Classes have been cancelled for students at the affected boards. At the moment, university and college application procedures are proceeding as normal as interim grades have already been submitted to post-secondary institutions. However if the strike drags on long enough, it could delay receipt of final marks. End-of year activities such as prom and graduation ceremonies are up in the air. The Peel board has said prom will still take place thanks to volunteer chaperones.

When will the strikes end?

While each local strike could end on its own through local negotiations, there’s a strong chance that won’t happen until an agreement is hammered out at the central table. At the moment, talks at the central table are stalled and there is no clear deadline for the strikes to end.

Who might strike next?

The disruption in the education system could get worse before it gets better.

High school teachers at four other school boards in the province -- Halton, Lakehead (Thunder Bay), Waterloo and Ottawa-Carleton – are in a legal strike position, though they have not set strike deadlines so far.

Last month the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, which represents English Catholic teachers of all grades, voted 94.2 per cent in favour of a strike mandate, though they have not given notice of an intention to strike so far either.

In the meantime, a May10 strike deadline has been set for ETFO, the union representing public elementary teachers across the province. If no deal is worked out by then, all elementary teachers in the province could take some sort of strike action, such as holding back extracurricular activities or even a full work stoppage.

-With files from CTV Reporter Naomi Parness and The Canadian Press