School buses will be ready to roll within 24 hours of the district getting word that the labour dispute has been put to rest, says the superintendent of the Central Okanagan school district.
Stressing that he was merely speculating, and had no definitive word one way or the other, Supt. Hugh Gloster surmised that all signs point to a Monday start to the school year.
“There has to be a ratification vote, and that’s likely to be happening on the Thursday. Depending on how that goes, we could be open within a day or two after that,” he said.
“We could open our schools almost immediately after the vote, but if we get news of ratification at 9 p.m. at night, that would be chaotic.”
The many employees of the district that go beyond teaching positions need a headstart, he said, naming custodians, bus drivers and other staff as those who would need notices.
Once that first day of classes is decided on, Gloster also wanted to remind parents that it will conducted in the manner of all first day’s of schools, despite the fact it’s three weeks late.
“Our typical opening day is a half day,” he said. “The opening day is often the time where we can verify who we have lost, who we have gained, and how do we balance our classes and make time table adjustments.”
The key issue in the labour dispute has historically been class size and composition, and that first day is when those issues may be addressed.
Teachers will find out what kind of classes they have, tell the powers that be who has special demands either educationally or medically and the district will allocate resources as they can.
The big question will be whether the ratified contract will create more funding to address those needs.
“We would try our best, using the staff who are at our disposal to balance out our classes so the composition issues are managed in the best way possible,” Gloster said. “Current practice is to use a learning improvement fund, dollars given to districts, then hire teachers and support staff to deal with challenging issues and students. We may find, of course, that there’s some difference that’s come out of the settlement. We need the details, then we will talk about best ways to deploy that funding.”
Negotiations between the union and the employers’ association, with the help of Vince Ready, took a turn for the better on the fifth day of talks at a Richmond hotel.
Outside the Delta, Tuesday, Ready told reporters that both sides worked hard to reach the tentative deal, but offered little else.
“I’m not at liberty to release any of the details, nor are the parties,” he said at the press gathering.
“The parties are going to meet later this morning and finalize a few of the outstanding details, but generally speaking, there has been a tentative agreement initialized by the parties and that’s really all I got to say at this point.”
Negotiations resumed last week under increasing pressure from the public.
More than 40,000 teachers in the province have been without a contract since June 2013 and class size and composition issues were highlighted repeatedly as the battle for public support was waged in the media.
Last January, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in favour of the BCTF, deciding that the provincial government violated teachers’ rights in 2002 when it declared they could no longer negotiate the size of classes or the number of support staff in classrooms. The matter is being appealed by the provincial government.