Many parents scrambling to find care for their children during the ongoing teachers strike have surprisingly found an array of options.
From extended day programs and ongoing summer camps to reading sessions and even teachers offering tutoring services, the community has stepped up to ensure its kids are safely being looked after.
“The beauty about the Vernon community is there are lots of groups willing to help out,” said Kirstie Blanleil, Okanagan Boys and Girls Club centre director in Vernon.
Throughout the valley, the Boys and Girls Club has extended programs to meet the needs of parents. Aside from last-minute cancellations, day programs in Vernon are full, with 60 youth, while there are another 20 spots in the recreation programs, which are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
“As long as the strike goes on we’ll be offering low-cost programming for parents who need it,” said Blanleil.
The situation is similar over at Maven Lane, which has the capacity to care for an even greater number of children but is also almost entirely full.
“With schools not in session we currently have 102 school-aged children registered for care,” said Hollie Henderson, executive director.
“Due to the uncertainty of the strike, we have had to be pro-active in preparing for these children to attend.”
As the strike continues, the phones at the local Child Care Resource and Referral have been ringing more and more.
“I think a lot of people were just waiting to see what would happen,” said Jesie Harms, program co-ordinator. “I think a lot of people really didn’t expect this.
“More than anything, they’re frustrated.”
Many parents are losing patience over the situation due to the uncertainty of when, or if, school will start, the extra daycare costs and burdens on grandparents.
“It’s been a long summer,” said Blanleil. “I think these kids are ready to go back to school.”
The other factor is that some kids, especially those with learning difficulties, are falling behind since losing time at the end of the school year last year, having no summer school and the time lost now.
Some parents have lost faith in the public education system and have enrolled their children in private school.
The B.C. Online School, run out of Kelowna by Heritage Christian Schools, has been swamped with three times the normal number applications for distributed learning from students across the province as a result of the strike.
“We are overloaded with kids coming to us, particularly those in Grade 12 who want to get a particular course and get their requirements for university,” superintendent Greg Bitgood told Black Press.
The online school, which is half funded by the province, instructed 3,400 students in its summer school – three times the normal number – and turned away another 6,000.
Demand has surged again now that the strike has spilled into September and pushed back the scheduled start of classes.
Meanwhile others are trying to fill the learning gap.
“The Junction Literacy Centre recognized that there is a general concern from all sides that the delay in a regular classroom schedule may disrupt student learning,” said Wendy Aasen, executive director.
With concerned parents calling, the Junction Literacy Centre is offering a series of reading support programs for students in grades one to seven.
“Since reading support programs are a service that the Junction Literacy Centre already provides, we decided to help address this need.”
Certified teachers do small group reading sessions that are tailored to the student’s current reading level, using the same methods used in the school system. Sessions begin Monday.
The Vernon Recreation Complex, Okanagan Science Centre and Allan Brooks Nature Centre have also stepped up to get kids active and engaged.
“We understand that this year’s ongoing strike is frustrating for both teachers and parents,” states the Allan Brooks Nature Centre, which has extended educational programs.
All in all, it is the staff at each facility that have stepped up to make caring for kids a priority this fall, despite not knowing if the work will last a few days or weeks.
“We have 50 educators employed at Maven Lane, and have had to draw on most of them to ensure the best possible service,” said Henderson. “We are grateful to be in a position to help the support the families of this community.”
Blanleil adds: “We have an amazing team who have agreed to work extended hours.”
Parents can also now register for the $40/day support payments at bcparentinfo.ca (which also includes online learning resources for kids).
– with files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press
Additional Child Care Options
Allan Brooks Nature Centre: Tuesdays Grades 1-3, Thursdays Grades 4-7. Call 250-260-4227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Okanagan Science Centre: Monday – Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The cost is $40 per day for OSC members and $50 per day for non- members (plus GST). Call 250-545-3644 or visit the OSC in Polson Park to register.
Greater Vernon Recreation Services: Sports strike camp among other full-day activities, planned until Sept. 12. Call 250-545-6035 or visit the Vernon Recreation Complex to register or go online to www.greatervernonrecreation.ca/activities/youth/camps/
Junction Literacy Centre: Parents may sign up their students for two 50-minute reading support sessions Mon/Wed or Tues/Thurs for $40 /week. Sessions start at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Visit www.junctionliteracycentre.ca or call 250-275-3117.
Ideas for Parents: to keep kids academically, socially and physically engaged and ready for the first day of school visit www.sd83.bc.ca for this and other online resources.