Grade 11 student Thunder Mitchell joins about 200 people rallying for teachers at W.L. Seaton Secondary Friday.

Grade 11 student Thunder Mitchell joins about 200 people rallying for teachers at W.L. Seaton Secondary Friday.

Greater Vernon students send Victoria message

Greater Vernon students insist they won’t be left on the sidelines as B.C.’s education system continues to be mired in conflict.



Students insist they won’t be left on the sidelines as B.C.’s education system continues to be mired in conflict.

Classes at W.L. Seaton, Kalamalka and Vernon secondary schools were abandoned Friday as students rallied in support of teachers’ bargaining position against the government.

“They’re not listening to teachers so maybe they will listen to us,” said Megan Fretz, who is in Grade 12 at VSS.

“It’s our education.”

The largest rally was at Seaton, where close to 200 students waved signs and caught the attention of motorists on 27th Street.

“Education affects our future,” said Claire Stanhope, a Grade 11 student, who says cutbacks are noticeable.

“We’re cramped in our classes. Teachers are knocking over our bags (as they walk around) and sometimes we have to share desks if all of the kids are there.”

Stanhope says course selection has also shrunk.

“Kids are sitting in the halls when they should be in class because they signed up for Spanish and Spanish was cancelled,” she said.

Wesley Shaver, who is in Grade 12 at Seaton, organized a Facebook page and urged his peers to get involved.

“As students, we’ve seen the effects of what the government is doing,” he said.

“We want to show we care. We’re being directly affected.”

Shaver denies suggestions students may have been influenced by teachers to protest or they may not understand the issues fully.

“We’ve tried very hard to make sure people know what’s going on and why we’re out here,” he said.

At VSS, placards were evident along both 15th and 18th streets.

“The government is taking a lot of money away from classes,” said Zoe McNair, who is in Grade 11.

“Big class sizes don’t work.”

For many of those who left classes, they admit they are tired of the war of words between the teachers and the government and they want the focus to be on students’ needs.

“I hope there will be more of a compromise so we’re not losing a lot,” said Keryn Young, in Grade 8 at VSS, of an eventual settlement.

Some students insist that politicians and the public have been too focused on teachers’ calls for a 15 per cent wage increase over three years.

“It’s not a money issue,” said Melanee Bryniawsky, a Grade 12 student at Kalamalka Secondary, who gathered along McClounie Road.

“It’s an issue of class size. How can we learn in large classes? Funding isn’t being given to education in general.”

Bryniawsky suggests that discussions around class size and composition be handled separately from wages so those matters that concern students’ learning are resolved quickly.

For many of the Kal students, personal relationships with the teachers are important.

“All of the coaches help us and they are a huge influence in our lives. We owe it to them,” said Kaely Johnson, who is in Grade 10.

The students who left class to rally Friday were observed by administration, largely to ensure safety.

“All will be marked absent and their parents will be informed that they missed the last period,” said Joe Rogers, the Vernon School District’s director of instruction.

No disciplinary action will be taken against the students, and Rogers says the matter is being left to families to address.

“Hopefully they had permission from their parents.”

While students were supposed to be in class, Rogers admits that developing social and political interests is also part of being a youth.

“They’re out here to show support for a solution and to have the best school they can,” he said.

Teachers in all school districts will be on strike Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Parents are asked not to send their children to school and buses will not be operating those three days.