With the province insisting on a negotiated settlement with B.C. teachers and the teachers holding firm to their demands, the end of the strike maybe sometime away yet.
Dave Stathers was walking the picket lines at Summerland Secondary last week. In his 25 years of teaching, he said, this is the first time he has seen job action push into a new year. He’s not optimistic for an early settlement to the strike.
“I think it will be October before we are back,” he said.
Though BCTF president Jim Iker held out the possibility of going to arbitration to settle the ongoing teachers’ strike over the weekend, that option has been all but ruled out by the government.
Iker urged the province to agree to arbitration and leave class size and composition to be settled by the courts, promising the union would then hold a membership vote on suspending the strike and returning to work, but Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the government team needs to see the detailed proposal in writing.
“I’ve never been a fan of binding arbitration,” he said, adding handing over control to a third party risks an outcome that compromises B.C.’s balanced budget and unacceptably damages the province’s finances.
In the meantime, parents are looking for ways to get their children prepared for when schools reopen and help reduce the effect of what Wendy Hyer, superintendent for the Okanagan Skaha school district, calls “summer skill loss.”
It’s too early to tell, she said, whether the strike has had an effect on home school registration, but she knows parents are looking for options.
“We really won’t know the impact on registration until this is all over. There is a private school in Kelowna that runs a distance learning program, so there are a few parents that have enrolled their kids there,” said Hyer.
“Literacy is always a big piece, ensuring your child is setting aside some time every day for reading, I think physical activity is always a plus, so get children outside and playing,” recommends Hyer.
Some parents, she said, have visited educational stores to get activities and other resources and have been sitting down with their kids and helping them with their times tables and other educational basics.
“When I was a kid, I learned how to count by playing cribbage, said Hyer. “There are a lot of things, if you really focus on the basic skills, then probably the summer skill loss might not be as significant.”
The private Summerland Montessori School, reports experiencing a higher than usual volume of calls of interest in the school, especially for the younger grades. They say they have had several new admissions this last week and the parents and school officials are attributing it to the strike in the public school system.
Hyer also suggest parents check for programs at community agencies and local libraries.
Sue Kline community librarian for Summerland Library, said they are seeing a lot of parents coming in, both now and over the summer.
We had a super screaming busy summer with kids out of school,” said Kline, adding that they have signed up a lot of new patrons. “We have had a lot of parents that are taking some initiative.”
Kline said they have noticed parents coming in more frequently, two or three times a week instead of once a week.
“We have seen parents becoming much more involved in their kids reading,” said Kline. She has also seen greater demand for their book lists ass well as advising readers.
“I would say that is quite a bit higher this year than previous,” she said. “Parents are approaching it with a little more initiative and more often and we are doing more directed reader advisory on an individual basis with parents and their kids.”
One parent, she said, came in and told her their kids would be doing novel studies, because that was one thing they could do, and asked for help.
“The staff has been very busy doing that sort of thing, matching age-appropriate material for kids,” she said. “They (parents) have definitely been more diligent in their use of the library.”
Other community activities in Summerland include extra loonie swims at the community pool on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., on Wednesday from 1:15 to 3 p.m. and on Friday from 1:15 until 5 p.m.
SADI (Summerland Asset Development Initiative) will be continuing with their summer programs and will be open Monday to Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club will be extending their summer day camp, in place of their after school program.
“We are calling it the strike camps,” said Kelsey Kotzian, program coordinator. They have limited space now, but if there is further demand they will be expanding to a maximum of 24 children, continuing for the duration of the strike.
The after school program that usually is held at the Giant’s Head School and the Trout Creek School, is temporarily being held at the Lakeshore Racquet Club and is a full day program each week day, while the strike is on.
With files from Jeff Nagel and Carla McLeod.