Local parents and students spent what was supposed to be the first day of school on Tuesday rallying for an end to the BC teachers’ strike.
The group marched from Ucluelet Secondary to Ucluelet Elementary where they were greeted by elementary school principal Jennifer Adamson, who read a statement from School District 70 superintendent Greg Smyth that said in the absence of the teachers, no educational programs would be offered.
Dennis Morgan’s son was supposed to start Grade 1 on Tuesday but that experience was delayed.
“This would have been his first day of school today and it’s not going to happen…he doesn’t get that first big day of school that’s pretty special,” Morgan said.
“It’s just disappointing that it’s gotten to this point, it shouldn’t have, there was all summer for people to figure stuff out and that didn’t happen and I put most of the responsibility for that not happening on the government’s side. I think the teachers have been pretty good about what they’re asking for.”
Naomi Swann has four sons- one going into Grade 4, one going into Grade 2, one going into Grade 1, and the youngest still a few years away from kindergarten- and she said it has been difficult to explain to them why school is still out.
“They want to be here with their friends, they want to be here playing and they can’t, and it’s tough to try and teach them what it all means,” she said.
“They’re frustrated, we’re frustrated, it’s time to resolve this issue and move on.”
Carrie Midlane has one child heading into Grade 2, another heading into Grade 1 and a third who won’t start kindergarten until next year.
“All they know is they want to go to school, they don’t understand what’s going on, and it’s sad to see,” she said. “It’s frustrating as a parent.”
The BC Teachers Federation and BC Public School Employers Association were unable to reach an agreement over the weekend so the teachers’ strike, which began during the last school year, spilled
into this school year.
Mediator Vince Ready left the negotiation table on Saturday, saying the two sides were too far apart for a resolution to be reached by Tuesday.
Ucluelet Elementary School teacher Christine Brice said traction has been made in terms of wages and benefits but the two sides are still in disagreement over class size and composition.
“At the table there’s been lots of movement on wages and benefits lots of points where we’re very
close, but the government is still refusing to talk about specific class size and composition issues,” she said.
Ucluelet Secondary School teacher Wade Appenheimer said teachers share the frustration of local students and parents and he encouraged parents to make a stronger stand.
“We want to be teaching absolutely, but we don’t have as much power as what the parents have,” he said.
“It’s the parents that have to
start really doing something to help out because the government doesn’t really listen to what we say, they’re more concerned about what the parents do and say, so the parents have to really step up and force the issue.”
He encourages parents to contact the Province and send their kids to school during the strike.
Brice said parents have seen the impact of expanding class sizes and too-few specialist teachers.
“They’ve seen firsthand what is happening in our classrooms and
how it’s not beneficial,” she said “Last year we had a grade 4-5-6 three-way split with 25 students, eight of those students were designated with special needs, there was no full-time aide assigned to that class for help; that teacher was on her own.”
She added UES is slated to possibly welcome a 30-student Grade 5-6-7 split this year that may have as many as 10 special needs students.