09/01/2015 22:43 EDT | Updated 09/01/2016 01:12 EDT

Extra-curricular activities put on hold in some Montreal schools

Students looking forward to joining a sports team or acting in the school play this year may not get the chance.

Extra-curricular activities at schools in the English Montreal School Board appear to have been put on hold, with teachers hoping the move will put pressure on the provincial government during collective agreement negotiations.

Royal West Academy, a high school in Montreal West, announced the change in a statement to parents on Tuesday.

"As of immediately, teachers at Royal West and other EMSB schools will suspend all participation in extra-curricular activities," the school administration said. 

"The only exceptions to date will be grade level trips and exchanges for which a contract has been signed, and a deposit made with a travel agency."

Royal West added that, "as a result of our tremendous respect for the work our teachers do, in and outside the classroom, we will be suspending our entire ECA program."  

A spokesperson from the EMSB declined to comment, instead referring CBC to a statement from the school board's director general Ann Marie Matheson, explaining that employees are currently in contract talks with the province.

"As a new school year gets underway, we may experience some pressure tactics aimed at bringing attention to the concerns raised by the different unions," the statement said. 

​While some schools say it's still too early to tell what this might mean for extra-curricular activities towards the end of the school year, students are nevertheless concerned.

School will 'feel like a chore'

Henry Egan, a Grade 10 student at Royal West, said his favourite part about the school is the after-school acting program. 

"I love acting because it's a release for me. It lets me be myself and it's where I feel comfortable with myself," he said.

He said the elimination of such activities will make school feel more "like a chore."

Leela Shamash, a Grade 11 student at the same school, agreed, saying she supports her teachers.

"I know the teachers who are pouring their hearts and souls into running these activities for us really deserve like a lot of recognition and a lot of like reward for the hours that they're putting in that they aren't getting," she said.

The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers is strongly encouraging its members to boycott extra-curricular programs.

Isabelle Daniels, who teaches at Willingdon Elementary School in NDG, said it's a difficult but necessary move.

"The only way the government will hear us, the only way that will make a difference is we have to stop it and we feel terrible about this but this is something we have to do to be heard," Daniels said.