Summer school is the latest collateral damage of the labour dispute between B.C. teachers and the provincial government.
There were 705 kids who took summer school in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district last year, but on Wednesday the board announced that it will be cancelled this year.
The B.C. Public School Employers Association, which negotiates on behalf of the province, had asked the Labour Relations Board to declare summer school an essential service.
The LRB ruled the essential service designation will apply only to students who have failed a Grade 10-12 course, and where the course is not available for the student next year.
“Of course, all students can take courses next year,” noted Wes Reamsbottom, the principal of summer school in the district.
He said there are 30 teachers and CUPE support staff hired for summer school.
“The team that was assembled was a great team, and would have had a great impact.”
In a letter to parents, the board explained that summer school has been cancelled.
“We will be working with affected students individually to minimize the impact of this cancellation and develop a plan for the fall,” said the letter, which is signed by acting superintendent Laurie Meston.
Reamsbottom said that on the slim chance that negotiations are concluded by June 7, which means wrapping them up this weekend, the district would still have its summer school team ready to work, and it could go ahead.
That appears unlikely. On Wednesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher concluded the two sides are too far apart on wages and working conditions for mediation to be effective.
Reamsbottom said students who have failed necessary courses will be moved to the front of the line in course selection next year, to ensure they get their prerequisites.
“The goal is to accommodate students and meet their needs.”
Between July 2 and 3, Reamsbottom has already heard from 200 people. Some were frustrated, some supportive.
“Most have ended positively. They just want to know what’s happening,” said Reamsbottom. “The situation is bigger than our district, it’s affecting the entire province.”
Many school boards were announcing the cancellation of summer school this week.
The board’s letter to parents also addresses report cards – there will be no final marks for Grade 8-9 students.
There are final marks for students in Grades 10-12, though not the full reports parents generally see. The distribution of the report cards will vary from school to school, and parents are advised to check their school’s website for information.
BCPSEA has proposed a seven per cent pay increase over six years, plus a $1,200 signing bonus with a deadline that expired June 30. The BCTF has countered eight per cent over five years with a proposed $5,000 bonus, to make up for a year the union has worked under an expired contract.
BCPSEA has calculated the cost of the union’s position on class size and composition at $1.67 billion. That dispute has been the subject of a series of court actions and the B.C. Court of Appeal is expected to rule on it in the fall.
• Contact Wes Reamsbottom at email@example.com.