Okanagan parent offers her view on dispute

Erin Hansen is one of the many B.C. parents scrambling to figure out what to do if teachers don’t go back to work on Tuesday.

Erin Hansen is one of the many B.C. parents scrambling to figure out what to do if teachers don’t go back to work on Tuesday.

Her seven-year-old is too old for daycare, but too young to stay home alone. Given that she’s a single mom, the financial burden of that new demand isn’t easy to bear.

“You got to do what you’ve got to do,” she said. “I’ve taken off work, but that’s not the best thing.”

To lessen the load, she and some other mothers in similar positions are planning to take turns taking time off work, “spreading around” childcare duties.

“It’s very frustrating,” she said.

Her frustration, however, is with the government.

Hansen is decidedly pro-teacher when it comes to the ongoing labour battle because she’s seen first-hand what it’s like in a classroom where needs outstrip resources.

In fact, her son is one of those who struggles in a classroom environment with a motor speech disorder called childhood apraxia of speech (CAS).

“Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis…The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words,” according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association.

Despite those challenges, he’s been streamed into a normal classroom environment, with no extra help.

“Frankly, because there are lots of kids in the schools who need the help, there’s not enough funding for it,” she said. “We were told that by the school board.”

Hansen, however, didn’t give up when the school board said no. She went to her paediatrician who had her son diagnosed in the medical system.

She can’t get medical help, as funding for his disorder ends at age five, but the diagnosis will put him in line for help in the schools this year.

“Whenever (funding for an educational assistant) comes through, he may get one,” she said. “But without money, they don’t get one.”

It’s upsetting to see her child struggle without the help he needs, she said. Especially because she knows he’d be getting more support if her home was one province away.

“In Alberta, he’d get that funding right away,” she said. “The school system out there, they put special needs first. They have large classrooms, but they have supports. If I didn’t have a job here that I loved, I’d consider moving.”

While Hansen considers leaving the province, countless other parents are looking into the independent school system.

As the strike got underway last spring, one “self employed” mother waiting for her child outside Watson Road Elementary School noted that she’s been seriously thinking about other options.

“I know parents need to keep in mind that school is not a daycare, but this is certainly inconvenient,” she said.

She also had questions about the validity of the union, noting that it was a divisive organization seemingly out of step with the times.

“This isn’t even a time where job security exists, anymore,” she said.

Ultimately, she said, the whole thing has made her seriously consider enrolling her children in private school.

Private schools, she said, would offer consistency as they’re shielded from the regular upheaval between the province and the teachers union.

The Federation of Independent Schools has reported a marked increase in inquiries, a trend the organization has seen during previous job action.

Details about private school enrolment levels won’t be available until after school commences.