Billy Munroe-Williamson

Billy Munroe-Williamson

School lockout cancels Maple Ridge track meet

Teacher involvement in grad ceremonies in Maple Ridge and Pit Meadows also in doubt

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows elementary school district track meet has been cancelled due to the labour strife between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government.

The lockout says teachers cannot work at recess or lunch hour, and must leave school 45 minutes after classes end. The lockout includes a 10 per cent payroll deduction.

Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said the union did not order the track meet cancelled.

“I provide the information as to what the risks are, and the teachers make the decision,” said Serra.

The risk is that if a student was injured while a supervising teacher was locked out, that teacher would not be covered by the school district’s liability insurance policy.

So if a student was hurt, a parent might bring a lawsuit that named the teacher involved.

Teachers are also taking job action, and were on the picket lines on Monday for the second day of rotating strikes.

Exactly how high school graduation ceremonies set for this weekend will be effected by the lockout is unclear, but Serra said teachers have been advised by the BCTF not to attend school while they are locked out. Some schools have grad functions during the school day.

A district spokesperson said all graduation ceremonies are going ahead as planned, and where teachers are not available, administrators will stand in for them.

Serra said teachers want to be there.

“It’s a big issue for teachers. It’s obviously something teachers enjoy attending, and it’s important for them,” said Serra. “Some of these kids they have known for five years, since they started in Grade 8.”

He said the Labor Relations Board is scheduled to rule Wednesday (today) on whether the partial lockout is legal, and that could change the situation.

Kellie Marquet, president of the District Parent Advisory Council, said the locked “has caused incredible hardships” for students.

“This time was always used to assist students when they needed some extra time to learn concepts,” she said.

Marquet added that after-school and noon-hour activities also help students foster positive relationships with teachers in a less formal way, and that opportunity is being lost due to the lockout.

“We are coming into final exam times, year-end wrap-ups, and the biggest celebrations – graduating classes. My daughter is graduating this Friday, and the schedule for rehearsals and the graduation itself has been moved around so that the teachers can attend,” she said.

“It is important that teachers are there, you can’t throw away those relationships that have been fostered and maintained over the last five years,” she said.

Thomas Haney teacher Andrew Lenton said the B.C. Track and Field Championships, held in Langley on Friday and Saturday, was short about 40 volunteers after many teachers failed to show up.

“Some sent parents in their place – parents who really didn’t know what was going on,” said Lenton, commissioner of the meet.

Lenton said he felt pressured to cancel the championships, but that would have left B.C. School Sports with as much as $40,000 in un-recoverable liabilities, and no revenue to cover it.

A debt like that would have the potential to bankrupt the organization, he said.

What’s more, there are 3,000 athletes and coaches from across B.C. counting on the event – the second largest high school track and field meet in Canada.

Kids from the north fundraise all year for the provincials, and travel for three days to get there, he said.

“A lot of the kids have spent three months qualifying for the provincials,” Lenton added. “For a lot of them, it is the highlight of their high school athletics career. To just put in on the shelf is so unfair.”

Even though organizers pulled it off, the lockout made it challenging.

“We had numerous school districts who sent not a single coach,” said Lenton. “But we made it go, and it was good.”

It was the 43rd annual running of the championships.

“It’s got a long tradition, and it’s only been cancelled once.”

Parent advisory councils say enough is enough and call for end to strike/lockout

The organization representing all public school parent advisory councils is calling for an immediate end to the teacher strike and lockout out of concern for students and families.

BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils president Terry Berting stated in a press release that the “feud” between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the government is having a detrimental effect on students, particularly those most vulnerable, and creating financial hardship for struggling families.

The parent group is also concerned about the cancellation of extra-curricular activities, end-of-year celebrations and sporting events in some schools, and is urging the government and the BCTF to concentrate their energies on achieving a new collective agreement.

“Successful outcomes for all students — not just those graduating from Grade 12 — are being affected by this labour dispute,” Berting stated. “This has got to stop.”

Parents are also encouraged to write to Education Minister Peter Fassbender and BCTF president Jim Iker explaining how the rotating strikes and lockout are affecting families.