Parents of students in grades K-9 should not expect to see a final report card.
Students in grades 10-12 in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will get their final grades, as required under the essential services designation, despite the current labour impasse between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government.
George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, clarified that teachers had agreed to give students a “shortened one-pager” while the union was in rotating strikes. However, when full strikes began last week, all school work ceased, including final grades.
Kanaka Creek elementary, though, could see a return to normalcy.
Serra has asked the BCTF leadership whether teachers can lift their picket line at the school, which has a balanced calendar with three month-long breaks. The strike has hit the school in the middle of its third term.
About 150 parents and students held a rally on Monday, joining teachers on the picket line.
“We want to bring attention to the fact that these kids still have school left, and we don’t want to be forgotten,” said Deanna Lackey, spokesperson for the school’s parent advisory council.
The school’s situation can be declared a special circumstance, and can be exempted from any labour action.
Teachers at the school expressed optimism that the strike will end quickly, by June 30, but Lackey is worried because the two sides are no longer bargaining, and respected mediator Vince Ready said the sides are too far apart for him to get involved.
Serra has asked the BCTF to consider the additional hardship to Kanaka teachers, who could lose up to six weeks of pay – a month more than their colleagues, if the strike continues through summer.
“We do need to be very sensitive to asking those teachers to take more of a hit than other teachers,” said Serra.
Students are also awaiting the union’s decision about whether pickets will come down to allow them to attend summer school.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the government will lift the lockout for summer school if teachers agree to lift their strike.
“All of the sudden, Mr. Fassbender was asking us for what sounded like a favor,” said Serra, adding that the minister could ensure summer school went ahead by putting more money on the table to resolve class size and composition issues.
Students have had their final exams simplified, to allow for easier marking. The Grade 10 English exam had one of its two essay questions removed, and both long-answer questions were removed from the Grade 11 social studies final. They were replaced by more multiple choice questions, which are faster for markers.
On Thursday, The B.C. School Trustees Association urged both sides to get back to the negotiating table.
Trustee Ken Clarkson, the local representative to the BCSTA, is glad trustees are getting involved.
“It’s good they’re saying something. In my opinion, trustees don’t have a big enough voice in what’s taking place.”
Clarkson also said the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) should be under the direction of school boards and trustees, who once set tax rates and negotiated with unions locally.
As it is, the BCPSEA “takes its orders from government,” and boards have had their power eroded.