Teachers' strike continues as school days draw near 

Whistler clubs work to set up weekday programming

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - STRIKE CONTINUES Classrooms could be empty at the beginning of the school year unless the province and BCTF can reach an agreement over the next few weeks.
  • Shutterstock Photo
  • STRIKE CONTINUES Classrooms could be empty at the beginning of the school year unless the province and BCTF can reach an agreement over the next few weeks.

With less than a month until students should be returning to the classroom, a deal between the provincial government and the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) has yet to be reached.

The two sides return to the bargaining table on Friday Aug.8.

"I think there is cautious optimism that there will be a settlement," said Carl Walker, president of the Sea to Sky Teachers' Association.

"We're still fully committed to negotiating a settlement before Sept. 2."

It's been a summer of little movement in the stalemate, the last news coming from a failed attempt by the Ministry of Education to send the process to mediation in early July.

Last week, Minister of Finance Michael de Jong announced that parents of children under 13 would get a $40-per-day subsidy toward educational opportunities if school doesn't start in September.

"The BCTF obviously doesn't support that," Walker said. "I think it's just a gimmick, and counter productive."

The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils has scheduled an emergency meeting for Aug. 16 in Richmond.

"I guess the goal is to try to come up with some sort of position from a parents' perspective instead of just reacting to government and BCTF initiatives," said Margot Murdoch, co-chair of the District Parent Advisory Council for Sea to Sky.

"Basically it's to provide a parent voice."

At the emergency meeting, the BCCPAC will discuss a list of resolutions it would like to see put forward, "basically just really pushing for student rights, adequate resources and learning conditions, with the hope that they get to school right away," Murdoch said.

Though not claiming to speak for all parents, Murdoch said many are disheartened by the drawn-out nature of the negotiations.

"It was bad enough that school ended so poorly... and it's going to start poorly again," she said.

The plus side for Whistler parents at least, Murdoch said, is that there's plenty of community support coming forward for parents.

"In Whistler I think clubs are amazing. They're so reactive," she said. "They just have so many people (and) volunteers that want to make it possible, so I think we're in a great scenario in Whistler."

When the lockout moved to a full-scale strike in mid-June, several Whistler clubs stepped up their programming to accommodate out-of-school children.

The RMOW has announced that it will offer non-instructional programming through its Kids on the Go program for the beginning of the 2014/15 school year should the strike continue. The program costs $48 per day and runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Myrtle Philip Community School. A program for high-school students may also be offered, the RMOW said.

Whistler Blackcomb is working on setting up a day program of its own — Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with an aftercare program for parents who can't pick up their children until after 5 p.m. DFX bike camps may also be offered through Whistler Blackcomb, with other day camps available for kids not interested in biking.

For kindergarten-aged students a learning component will be included (focusing on letters and numbers), while programs for older students will focus on outdoor education. Pricing for the Whistler Blackcomb programs is still to be determined.

Podium of Life Snow Sports Academy will be offering weekday programming in September, including a number of outdoor activities. Contact podiumoflife@shaw.ca or visit www.podiumoflife.com for information and registration.

More programming will likely be announced closer to September.

Check back with Pique for updates.

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