It’s back to school Monday for teachers and students across British Columbia.
B.C. Teachers’ Federation members voted 86 per cent in favour of a six-year agreement negotiated with the help of mediator Vince Ready this week. About three out of four of the province’s 40,000 teachers voted.
“I’m happy with this deal,” said BCTF president Jim Iker. “It gives the province’s teachers raises totalling 7.25 per cent over six years, improvements to benefits and a fund to hire hundreds of new teachers each year.”
Iker said the turnout for the vote was higher than the union’s last two ratification votes. A total of 31,741 teachers cast ballots and 27,275 voted yes.
Vernon Teachers’ Association president Heather Malcolm said this was a tough round of negotiations and a difficult time for striking teachers.
“While this is not a perfect deal, we were able to push back the government and I think parents and the community now fully understand the real issues facing our public education system,” she said. “I hope that they and our trustees will continue to join us in improving the system.”
Teachers were in the classroom Friday to prepare for students to start school on Monday.
The Vernon School District will be opening the doors to students tomorrow for a half-day.
“We will use our established routine of a shortened first day,” said district superintendent Joe Rogers.
Students will be in attendance for the morning and buses will run three hours earlier than usual.
“This process will allow schools to welcome their students, enroll new students and establish enrolment numbers to finalize staffing and any necessary addition of divisions or sections,” said Rogers.
The remainder of the week will be full days and parents are advised to check their school’s website for specific details.
New students should report to their catchment area school to register.
And for the district’s newest learners, gradual kindergarten entry involves meeting the teacher, small group orientation and shortened times to allow children and parents the best opportunity for a strong start.
Gradual entry will be provided by each school Monday to Thursday. Kindergarten students will attend for the full day on Friday, which is also when busing will begin for the youngsters.
As there have been a number of changes in bus stops and routes as the district enforces its 2.4 km walk limit, individual student schedules can be viewed on parent connect.
Vernon School Board chairman Bill Turanski said he received many e-mails from both parents and teachers over the last few months wondering what trustees could do to help.
“It’s a real sense of relief that we are finally moving forward because it seemed that for quite a period that nothing positive was happening and that really caused a lot of concern for me and the other trustees and parents and we just didn’t know what action to take,” he said. “We are really anxious that somehow we’re going to make it a very positive and productive year for the students, even though they have lost three weeks. The ministry is not considering doing any other alterations to the school year so will have to work within the parameters we have. I think it’s going to be most difficult at the secondary level.”
In the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District, superintendent Glenn Borthistle said students there will also have a half day on Monday and gradual entry for kindergarten students.
“This has been a challenging time for all involved in public education and our families,” he said.
For complete details on back-to-school in Vernon, see www.sd22.bc.ca and for North-Okanagan-Shuswap, see www.sd83.bc.ca
The finance ministry is preparing to send out compensation of $40 per lost student day to parents of students up to age 12. One-time payments are expected to be sent out in October to eligible parents who registered at bcparentinfo.ca.