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Pitt Meadows secondary planning to open

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A Pitt Meadows high school principal is optimistic that classes will begin on time, although B.C.’s teachers and government appear to be no closer to reaching a deal.

In a newsletter to parents and students published Wednesday, Mike Keenan indicated Pitt Meadows secondary is ready to open its doors.

“This entire series of events has not been easy on anyone, yet I expect to see things settled soon and I am excited about getting a new school year underway,” wrote Keenan.

The school website indicates the school office will be open for registration on Monday.

It also notes Sept. 2 noted as the “first day for students.”

Keenan revealed that students would be returning to a building that’s been “polished top to bottom” by hard-working custodial crews.

“On Sept. 2, students will need to come in to school for the following time, attendance is mandatory,” the newsletter said.

It went on to list when each grade needs to arrive for a short assembly and pick up their timetables.

“I am remaining positive and planning to open on schedule,” Keenan said in an e-mail.

Unlike Keenan, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District is being more cautious about the prospect of school restarting on time.

“We’re hopeful that the dispute will be resolved in time for the beginning of the school year and are preparing for this start,” said Irena Pochop, SD42 manager of communications.

“That said, we do have to prepare for all scenarios.”

During a full-scale strike, schools are unable to provide adequate supervision for children and, therefore, cannot ensure student safety, Pochop added.

“For this reason, we always ask parents and guardians to make other arrangements for their children.”

SD42 will keep parents updated via its website, Facebook and Twitter.

“Although we haven’t had many calls from parents yet, we know that there’s a lot of anxiety about how this school year will begin,” said Pochop.

“On our end, we are working hard to ensure the year begins as smoothly as possible so all our students and staff can focus on having a great year.”

Offices will open next week, provided schools aren’t behind picket lines.

Teachers went on a full-scale strike June 17, closing public schools in B.C. two weeks before the end of the school year.

The strike followed several weeks of rotating walkouts and other job action.

Talks between the B.C. Teacher’s Federations and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association have continued under a media blackout since mediator Vince Ready met the two sides last week.

On Thursday, however, Education Minister Peter Fassbender spoke to media, saying he respects the blackout as it relates to bargaining, but has a responsibility to advise parents about the options available to them if the strike continues.

He referred parents to bcparentinfo.ca, a tax-payer funded website launched Monday to update parents on bargaining and provide them with learning resources.

The B.C. government has also offered parents and guardians of students under the age of 13 years $40 a day if the strike is not over by the start of classes in September.

The BCTF called Fassbender’s media tour “a clear contravention” of the media blackout that was agreed to when Ready first engaged in the bargaining process.

“It is unhelpful that the minister is again playing politics in the media instead of allowing bargaining to resume behind closed doors,” said BCTF president Jim Iker.

“It shows a lack of integrity and highlights the government’s ongoing attempts to derail meaningful negotiations.”

The union called on Fassbender to honour the media blackout and instruct the public school employers’ association to immediately begin intensive mediation with the assistance of Ready.

“The BCTF bargaining team is ready at any moment to begin this important work. Teachers hope the government is finally ready to compromise to get a negotiated settlement,” Iker added.

“More than anything, teachers want to be back in schools on September 2 with smaller classes, and more support for all students so we can give BC children the education they deserve.”

The province and public school employers’ association have maintained that the BCTF’s benefit demands remain far beyond those of other public sector unions that have settled contracts. Also at issue is class size and special needs support, with the employer’s latest offer rejected by the union and the latest of a series of court actions scheduled for this fall.

See related story: Private schools see spike in interest

See related editorial: Welcome back

Pitt Meadows Secondary Newsletter - 20 Aug. 2014 by Monisha Caroline Martins

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