Students at Pitt Meadows secondary walked out of class on Wednesday to protest the dispute between teachers and the province. (Inset 1) [from left] - Katelyn Fawcett

Students at Pitt Meadows secondary walked out of class on Wednesday to protest the dispute between teachers and the province. (Inset 1) [from left] - Katelyn Fawcett

Strike vote looms over Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows schools

Rotating strikes will continue next week, on Thursday.

Report cards may not be done, a full strike looms, and students across the province walked out of class this week to protest the chaos creeping into the education system.

Rotating strikes will continue next week, on Thursday.

Teachers will take a full strike vote on Monday and Tuesday.

Results will be announced Wednesday, then the B.C. Teachers’s Federation must give 72 hours strike notice before escalating job action to a full strike.

The earliest the full strike could happen would be June 16, said Maple Ridge Teachers Association president George Serra.

On Wednesday, the Labour Relations Board ruled the government’s lockout, including cutting teacher wages by 10 per cent, is legal and can continue.

The union’s response was the full-strike vote.

Students and parents should also be prepared for the frustration of not having report cards ready, said Serra.

Some teachers will have already started preparing them, in the 45 minutes that the lockout allows them to stay in school after class. But between cleaning their classrooms and helping students, there is little time left for reporting.

If this work doesn’t get done, the school district can’t force teachers to complete it, Serra said.

“It’s their lockout.”

Because teachers will be in various stages of completing report cards, he speculated some classes would get report cards, others wouldn’t, and some students could get abbreviated reports.

Marking provincial exams, and taking part in extra-curricular activities, including graduation ceremonies, are likely to be impacted by the lockout. The union has told members they can attend grad ceremonies as guests, but not in a working capacity, if it is not being held at their work place.

“Some teachers were really holding out hope that the LRB would declare the lockout illegal,” said Serra.

A handful of students in each of the high schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows joined a province-wide walkout Wednesday morning.

“We’re here to protest teachers going on strike,” said Katrina Huppe, with a small group of Samuel Robertson Technical students protesting in front of the local school district office on Brown Avenue.

They were most worried by reports from their teachers that job action could interrupt final exams, that they might be to be taken in the fall, rather than the coming weeks.

Retaining the course information over a summer would be an issue, they said.

“We want our finals in June, before we forget [the material] by September,” said Huppe. “People could be counting on the exam to boost up their marks.

The students could keep studying during the summer, so the course details stay fresh in their minds.

“Nobody wants to do that,” noted Katelyn Fawcett.

So far, all exams are scheduled to go ahead in June.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Thursday that students will write provincial exams.

There were only eight students on the front lawn of Garibaldi secondary.

“It’s a bit anticlimactic,” observed Samuel Kuris. “Everyone is scared to leave class, because they’ve got a lot of work to do.

“But we wanted to show that students care, too. We’re in the middle of this.”

Louie Molnar said he is worried about having administrators mark final exams, rather than teachers, who are most familiar with the course work.

Students from Maple Ridge secondary demonstrated in front of the board office on Tuesday, and on Wednesday a group of 30 students rallied in front of Pitt Meadows secondary.

At the bargaining table, the BCTF has reduced its pay increase proposal by one per cent over four years and offered other concessions in a move to end the stalemate.

The new BCTF wage proposal is an increase of 9.75 per cent over four years, plus cost-of-living adjustments.

BCTF president Jim Iker estimated that with inflation, the total increase would be 12.75 per cent over four years.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, representing the province’s 60 school districts, has proposed a 7.5 per cent increase over six years, and recently added a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year.

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