Dispute continues

Teachers Don Bennett (left), Daniel Derksen, Kilmer Hagen, Doug Smith and retired teacher Michael Holoiday wave to supporters as they walk the picket line in front of A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby Monday. - Jennifer Smith/Morning Star
Teachers Don Bennett (left), Daniel Derksen, Kilmer Hagen, Doug Smith and retired teacher Michael Holoiday wave to supporters as they walk the picket line in front of A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby Monday.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

Round two of job action has teachers and students in protest.

On Monday, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District started the second round of strikes, followed by striking teachers throughout the Vernon district Tuesday.

While the honks and waves of passing motorists shows some in the public are supporting the strike, some students will themselves be protesting.

A B.C.-wide walkout has been planned for 9 a.m. today in response to the dispute between the B.C. Teachers Federation and the government.

“The two sides are like parents who are divorcing and have stuck their children in the middle for the last thirteen years,” reads the Facebook event called Save Our Students.

But it’s not just the students who are fed up.

Everyone wants a resolution so they can get back to class.

“What we’re supportive of is a fair deal and let’s get on to educating kids,” said Enderby’s A.L. Fortune Secondary principal Gene Doray.

But there are some serious issues which the teachers are fighting for.

Nothing has changed in the past dozen years, as schools continue to wait for smaller classes and special needs support.

Retired teacher Michael Holoiday joined his colleagues on the picket line Monday at the Enderby high school he spent 32 years teaching at.

“Why has it taken 12 years to resolve this issue?” he questioned.

A.L. Fortune teacher/counsellor Don Bennett says the funding formula, where schools gain funding based on the number of students, doesn’t work.

“It’s not cheaper because it’s two kids less,” said Bennett, as buses still have to run, lights still need to be on, heat is still necessary and teachers are still needed to teach the kids.

“When programs get cut students suffer,” said Bennett.

“You cannot expect that services will be the same.”

One major area of frustration is a lack of special needs support.

When resources, such as education assistants, are removed from the classroom and the onus is  placed on one individual, the rest of the class suffers, says the BCTF.

One teacher, who wished not to be named, said this happens everyday as the government doesn’t fund the full day of supervision that a special needs student requires, forcing others to assist them.

“It’s pulling support from kids who need it,” she said.

Chandra Hamilton and her kids were out picketing in front of Ellison Elementary Tuesday solely in support of CEAs.

“I really feel that if we lose our CEA support staff at schools then the academic learning in classrooms will be delayed due to the time that will have to be spent with these children that need that extra support, or these children that need the support will not succeed because of the lack of one on one time they require,” said Hamilton.

But the common theme is that no one wants to be out striking or protesting, especially the teachers who have been out on picket lines for the second time in two weeks.

“I’ve got kids writing provincial exams and I should be meeting with them today,” said the anonymous teacher. “I’m not happy being out.”

Meanwhile Doray says students are fortunate they can work remotely during strike days or perhaps get some extra hours in at work, or at home.

“I know some parents are putting their kids to work,” said Doray, adding that graduation events will continue as normal. He is just unsure how many teachers will be in attendance at this point.


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