Local schools coping with teachers’ ‘unstrike’ 

Community programs and active help by administrators appear to be heading off the effects of the escalation in job action by Whistler teachers.

"With the latest phase it has, in most cases, eliminated opportunities for extra curricular activities," said Whistler Secondary principal Ken Davies.

"Our people in our building have been very good in working within the framework of their particular jurisdiction in providing the services needed for kids.

"Grad activities have not been too affected. The major area affected is in the whole realm of extracurricular athletics."

For students at Whistler Secondary the effect will be felt most keenly in basketball and gymnastics.

While there is no senior basketball team this year the junior team schedule will likely be cut back. Principal Davies will continue to sponsor the team so practices can continue.

But, said Davies, "It’s difficult to schedule games because most of the other teams you would be competing against don’t have the outside coaches."

The high school gymnastics club has been absorbed by the Whistler Gymnastics Club for now.

"But it is costing us money to do that," said parent Anne Fenwick, whose 15-year-old daughter,Sarah, is part of the school club.

"It will be $100 for the program, which isn’t unreasonable."

Both gymnastic clubs shared the same coaches so there will be little change in the program for kids.

But it’s unlikely there will be any competitions in the near future.

"They were going to be attending some high school meets so now they don’t know if they will have the chance to compete," said Fenwick.

"But they are hoping they are going to be able to have some fun competitions with other groups in the same situation."

The high school year book is well under way said principal Davies, and will continue to be overseen by an administrator.

On Dec. 20 the B.C. Teachers Federation announced that teachers would withdraw from all extracurricular activities.

Across the province sports, drama, music and after-school clubs are the latest casualty of the "unstrike."

However, in Whistler many of these types of activities are done through the community centre or with outside coaches and so remain unaffected.

At Myrtle Philip, principal Bob Daly will continue sponsoring the cross-country ski program, and the downhill program, run by Whistler-Blackcomb, will also be unaffected as teachers are not involved.

Daly is concerned about the upcoming track and field programs as they rely on teacher participation to be successful. But he said morale at the school remains high.

"Everybody seems to be in a pretty good frame of mind," said Daly.

In most school districts a teacher or administrator must be present at all school sport functions for insurance reasons.

The BCTF has said that it won’t take action against volunteers who come forward to replace teachers in extra-curricular activities because it does not believe such workings belong to teachers.

The Howe Sound School Board met Wednesday and discussed the escalation in the teacher’s job action.

"We want to try and get a sense of what is happening currently," said board secretary treasurer Nancy Edwards.

The board was also to discuss the use of volunteers to replace teachers in school-sponsored extra-curricular activities.

There is no legal reason why volunteers can’t take over but it’s not a quick fix, as volunteers would have to undergo sophisticated screenings, including criminal record checks, which can take weeks to complete.

Meanwhile some students around the province are taking action of their own to protest the job action.

At Logan Lake Secondary in the Kamloops region students walked out on classes Tuesday to protest the job action by teachers.

About half the students at Colquitz Junior High School near Victoria walked out of classes Wednesday morning, protesting continuing job action by teachers.

The idea for the action started through the Internet.

At press time there were no plans for Whistler students to stage a walk-out.

Some media outlets are reporting that if school disruptions increase the government will step in and legislate the province’s 45,000 teachers back to work.

The negotiations remain stalled over several issues. Teachers want a 22 per-cent wage increase over three years. Their employer has offered 7.5 per cent.

Teachers also say they are fighting to keep smaller class sizes and specialists such as teacher librarians and counsellors.

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