News

Opening day school bell goes unanswered as dispute continues

Teachers are retracing their steps on picket lines around B.C. schools today, while students and parents continue to wonder when classes will resume.

The final blow to hopes of schools opening on time came to Central Okanagan parents via a notice on the school district’s website Sunday.

“It is now almost certain that schools will remain behind picket lines on Sept. 2 and until such time as an agreement is reached,” said school superintendent Hugh Gloster in the notice, that highlighted the weekend’s failed negotiations between mediator Vince Ready, the BCPSEA and the BCTF.

“Parents are encouraged to find alternative childcare arrangements as needed, and to pay attention to this website (bcparentinfo.ca) and the media for updates.”

While news that classes wouldn’t resume was predicted before the announcement came along, failed negotiations did give each camp an opportunity to yet again point fingers.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the parties in the teachers dispute are “too far apart for mediation at this time.”

“I’m very disappointed for students, parents and teachers. What should be a time of excitement and anticipation will instead be marked by frustration and uncertainty,” said Fassbender in a press release on Saturday.

“I wish I could tell British Columbians when students will be back in school, but right now I don’t see any quick or easy solutions.”

The BCTF leadership “has stubbornly refused every effort to reach a fair deal” and refused to give teachers a chance to vote on suspending the pickets while an agreement is mediated,” he claimed.

“The gap is much bigger than what the BCTF has been making it out to be, which was that the parties were close on all matters except class size and composition. Over the past few days, it’s been a very different story behind closed doors,” said Fassbender.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said they were still determined to get a deal before Sept. 2 so schools could open. But after two days of work with mediator Vince Ready, Iker said it had become clear the government was not prepared to find a fair settlement.

“The BCTF team tried to kick start meaningful talks by dropping some proposals entirely and reducing others substantially. In total, our moves today reduced our package by $125 million. Unfortunately, the government did not indicate they were willing to make any meaningful moves in return,” said Iker.

While those in the political sphere continue to spin their wheels, parents are encouraged to get more information from the ministry at a website that’s been set up by the Ministry of Education at bcparentinfo.ca.

The website provides information about the stipend of $40 per day for parents of students under the age of 13 if the dispute continues.

Parents and primary caregivers could start registering their children Aug. 31 either on the website or by calling 1-877-387-3332. Payments will be processed within 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends.

Payments for kindergarten students, and students new to B.C. public schools, will be made after the labour dispute ends and enrolment for the school year is confirmed.

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