Strike looms over start of school

Revelstoke schools are getting ready to start on Sept. 3, but teachers strike hangs over back-to-school preparation.

With one week until a new school year is scheduled to start, the possibility of it being delayed is looming over students, parents and staff.

“I’m pretty stressed out,” one mother of two elementary school students told me. “I have no daycare starting the end of next week. I’m being optimistic but I don’t know.”

Negotiations between the BC Teachers Federation and the BC Public School Employers Association have been mostly silent in the past two weeks ever since Vince Ready, a highly-respected mediator, opted to join in on the talks.

At the Revelstoke School District office, preparations are underway to start school on September 3, regardless of the state of negotiations. “At this time we are planning on regular school opening and we need to continue to do that,” said superintendent Mike Hooker. “It’s not just optimism — we need to make sure we’re ready.”

On Monday a letter was sent out to parents letting them know of the Sept. 3 start date, but it also noted the labour disruption, which started in June, will result in problems, even if an agreement is reached in time.

“As a result of the disruption caused by the labour dispute in June, staff have not had an opportunity to prepare class organization at the elementary schools and the student timetables at the secondary level to the extent we would have liked,” wrote Hooker. “That said, I know our staff will ensure that our students have an enjoyable and successful introduction to the 2014-15 school year.”

The uncertainty over the start of the school year isn’t ignored and the letter also expresses disappointment “that this much uncertainty is existing at a time when our students should be looking forward to a really exciting year,” said Hooker. “Our whole school community is feeling the impact the dispute is having on our students. We’re expressing that to parents.”

For John Secord, who has children entering grades two and four, a delay will just mean an extension of summer vacation for them, though he has bought their school books.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, just wait and see,” he said.

For the mother with one child about to enter kindergarden and the other grade seven, it’s producing stress.

“I told my son summer’s over. He’s going to start reading a novel and doing math games online,” she said. For her child who is starting kindergarden, she will have to secure day care. “She’s the one I’m stressed about.”

Linda Chell, the executive director of the Revelstoke Child Care Society said parents needing child care for their school-aged children can call the child care resource and referral centre at 250-837-6669. There, they can be referred to a licensed family child care provider or enrolled in a full-day program for school-aged children.

Chell said about 30 parents contacted the centre in June, when school ended abruptly, and there is the capacity to provide care for that many children.

The $40 per day the government is offering parents for every day the strike continues will cover the cost of day care, but for the mother of two, she’d rather see the money go to the teachers and for school to start.

“I would rather they don’t give it to me,” she said. “It’s touchy, because I think they’re so easily willing to give it to the parents but they’re not willing to give it to the teachers. That frustrates me.”

 

 

 

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