05/06/2015 05:29 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT

Durham school board and teachers' union heading back to bargaining table

The Durham District School Board and the local teachers' union will meet again on Friday to resume negotiations that could end a nearly three-week strike that has closed secondary schools in the area, according to the school board.

The announcement comes as high school teachers in Durham region held a mass picket outside the school board offices on Wednesday.

Signs of optimism that the strike could end is dampened by other strike actions by elsewhere in the province. 

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) are not negotiating at the moment in Peel region, where 42,000 students in one of the country's biggest school boards — the region includes the municipalities of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon — are not at school.

On Tuesday, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) issued a news release saying its workers "will be taking province-wide strike action as of Monday."

But if a local deal is reached in Durham, schools could reopen, according to the board.

Liz Sandals, the provincial education minister, says this is the only way to solve the dispute.

"It doesn't matter whether it's elementary or it doesn't matter if it's secondary," she said. "The only way that we can resolve the issues is to be at the table and negotiate."

If the union and the school board do meet on Friday, it will mark the first time since the strike began on April 20 that the two sides are talking in Durham.