The scheduled start of a new school year is just days away but summer holidays may be extended.
Teachers have picked up picket signs again in the North Okanagan-Shuswap and Vernon districts as part of an ongoing dispute with the provincial government.
“Teachers are intensifying and mobilizing at sites across the province,” said Brenda O’Dell, North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association president.
NOSTA has picket lines in front of schools.
“Teachers want to be back in schools, parents want their children in school and students want to be in school. This week is to invite the government back to the table.”
When asked if a deal can be reached by Tuesday, O’Dell said, “The B.C. Teachers Federation is ready and willing.”
The Vernon Teachers Association will have picket lines in front of the Vernon School District board office today, Thursday and Friday.
“We will concentrate our efforts at the school board office this week and should a deal not be reached, we will be on regular picket duty at our schools starting Sept. 2,” said Heather Malcolm, VTA president.
“In addition, the VTA is calling on teachers, parents, and community members to attend a special public school board meeting today at 6 p.m.”
The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is urging parents to develop alternate plans if classes don’t begin Tuesday.
“We had hoped everything would be settled and all of our 6,000 children would be back in school and learning Sept. 2. But the way things look right now we are having serious doubts that school will be back in session as planned,” said Bobbi Johnson, school district chairperson.
A concern for the district is there won’t be sufficient time to prepare for classes to begin after a settlement is reached.
Johnson says many teachers generally come in to schools over the summer to prepare materials and their classrooms for the new school year.
“This year, due to the ongoing strike, teachers have been advised by the BCTF to not participate in these usual preparations, although there has been no lockout of teachers by the employer during these summer months.”
The Vernon School District is also calling on parents to develop alternate arrangements for their children if there is no school next week.
“It’s really difficult on parents,” said Joe Rogers, superintendant.
“We know kids want to be in school and teachers want to be in school.”
The Vernon district is remaining optimistic.
“We’re still hopeful the two parties can come together and there will be an agreement,” said Rogers.
Malcolm hopes mediator Vince Ready can bring the union and the government together.
“We want to be in our classrooms. We want kids to start school on time. We want mediation to settle this,” she said.
“We are frustrated and disappointed that Education Minister (Peter) Fassbender and the Liberal government do not share this will.”
The Vernon School District Parent Advisory Council is calling for both sides to compromise so classes can resume.
“We would request that the government lockout be lifted and the full teacher strike be suspended. We want our students to return to a safe, respectful school environment, while bargaining continues out of the public eye,” said Sheri Minard, VPAC president.
“Parents understand that this, of course, will be an extremely complex and possibly lengthy process and we encourage all sides to seek innovative and collaborative solutions while allowing students to pursue their education.”