Extracurricular activities get the axe

Vernon school district teachers protest government legislation by abandoning extra-curricular activities

Sports teams are benched and clubs in limbo as teachers escalate opposition to the government.

Teachers in the Vernon School District will not volunteer for extracurricular activities to protest the provincial government’s legislation, which imposes a net-zero wage settlement and class size levels.

“We’re in the middle. It’s frustrating,” said Nicole Makohoniuk, District Parent Advisory Council president, of the government and the union.

“It feels like parents and kids are being held hostage.”

Makohoniuk understands that many sports team and club activities are not part of a teacher’s job.

“It’s voluntary but I volunteer as a parent. I fundraise so they have money for their classrooms and for field trips,” she said.

“I can see their point, but it’s disappointing.”

Some teachers have stopped volunteering with sports teams and other groups now, while others will complete what they have started or not start anything new.

“It’s extremely difficult and it reflects how serious the situation is,” said Bruce Cummings, Vernon Teachers Association president.

“These extras are not part of our job. That (withdrawal) is all that’s left to us because legal avenues are gone.”

Once legislation is passed, the union will not be able to strike or pursue other job action.

“The government is going ahead in spite of the legitimate objections we have,” said Cummings of class size and composition.

Cummings isn’t sure how a ban on extracurricular events will impact graduation ceremonies.

“A lot of parents are involved so it may not make a lot of difference to graduation,” he said, adding parents and community members can volunteer as coaches or club sponsors.

Cummings denies the union is putting students in the middle of the contract dispute.

“Will they be affected by this, yes. Are they affected by Bill 22, hugely. Have they been affected by 10 years of cuts, enormously,” he said.

“We don’t take this lightly. We’re working hard to improve education.”

School district officials say administrators will be unable to keep extracurricular programs going.

“It will have a huge impact on the culture of schools and that worries me,” said Bev Rundell, superintendent, adding some sports may continue with community coaches.

A priority will be grad planning.

“Grad activities may be different if it’s just principals and vice-principals involved in the organizing,” said Rundell.

 

Besides Vernon, teachers in other districts have decided to withdraw from extracurricular activities. They include Kamloops-Thompson, Sooke, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, Prince George, Peace River South, Creston, West Vancouver, Okanagan Skaha and Sea-to-Sky.