Teacher vote may impact high school sports 

Parents, organizations may step up to coach teams, run events

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As early as today (April 19), the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) may have tabulated votes from teachers on whether to further escalate their job action against the province.

Teachers have already withdrawn from various administrative roles and non-teaching duties such as monitoring students at lunch and recess, and some teachers stopped tabulating grades for report cards as part of their action until Bill 22 was approved by the province.

Now, as a way to continue to draw attention to their concerns, teachers may withdraw from unpaid extracurricular school activities such as after school clubs, coaching sports programs and planning graduation ceremonies.

The decision whether to continue will ultimately be left up to the teachers, but it's believed that most teachers will comply with the union in the contract dispute.

Some 15 school districts across the province have already voted to withdraw from extracurricular activities including the Sea to Sky district, though it was left up to teachers.

In the Province, BCTF president Susan Lambert said that teachers would be encouraged to withdraw.

"We always work as a collective," she said. "We use moral suasion. We talk to our members. We expect members to comply with a majority, democratic decision. But in the end, that (decision to withdraw from extracurricular activities) will be at the teachers' individual discretion."

Whistler Secondary Principal Bev Oakley said it's unclear what the impact will be on sports programs at the school, although most sports teams already run with at least some parent involvement. "We have a combination of teacher-coaches and parent-coaches... and if something comes up where a teacher decides not to coach or run an activity then in some cases parents will step into the breach.

"As things come up we will deal with them. Teachers have always had the option to volunteer at any time and autonomy over what they decide to do in terms of coaching."

The programs that could be affected by the vote include girls' soccer, track and field, rugby (depending on numbers) and mountain biking.

The annual school play/musical will go ahead as planned as a credited course this year.

Sue Keenan, executive director of B.C. School Sports, said they are moving ahead.

"Here at B.C. School Sports, I am hopeful — with the assistance of some of our committed teacher-coaches, community coaches and school administration — that most, if not all, sanctioned BCSS Provincial Championships will be completed for our spring sports."

Despite her reassurances, some events have already been impacted. The Vancouver Sun reported last week that a major track and field meet planned for Surrey has already been cancelled in anticipation of the vote, as well as meets in Abbotsford and Mission.

Keenan said 35,000 students compete in school sports during the spring session, and many of those sports seasons are already underway.

She also confirmed that parent coaches are eligible to coach school teams without teacher sponsors or coaches, or any issues with insurance. The only provincial requirement is for criminal record checks for any parent or community coaches. Any other requirements, she said, are particular to individual school districts.

The Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is watching the vote closely. They've already committed to supplying the Whistler Secondary mountain bike team with coaching for the season, but don't know what the impact of the teachers' job action could have on the North Shore Mountain Bike League where they compete in the weeks leading up to the provincial championships. The first event was this past Wednesday.

BCSS sanctions the annual high school mountain bike championships, which will go on as planned.

"WORCA is committed to paying for coaching for the high school mountain bike season," confirmed WORCA youth director Craig Mackenzie, although it's unknown what that might look like.

The teacher job action has also resulted in the cancellation of two class trips at Myrtle Philip Elementary School, which involved overnight stays.

Among other things, like smaller class sizes, the BCTF is asking for a 15 per cent pay raise for teachers over the next three years, while the province is sticking to its "net-zero" plan to balance the budget.

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