Kelowna students’ weigh worth of labour strife

Some Kelowna students fear they'll be paying for this year's extended summer holiday with their futures.

Some Kelowna students fear they’ll be paying for this year’s extended summer holiday with their futures.

“It’s stressing me out,” said Grade 12 student Megan Soderlund, hours before news of a tentative deal between the BCTF and the province was announced.

Soderlund will likely be back in classes with her fellow students next week, but thinking about the weeks of study time she’s lost will continue to weigh on her.

University applications, hours logged in advanced placement classes and, in her case, SAT prepping has all been thrown off kilter with the ongoing strife between the BCTF and the province.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” she said. “They took a long break in the summer when they could have been negotiating, and at the end of the day they’re all going to be OK.”

Sitting across the table from her was fellow Grade 12 student, Thomas Song, who quickly picked up on that comment.

“Students really are sacrificing the most, and we’re getting nothing,” said Song.

Both explained  that the post secondary educational climate is competitive.

And, while B.C. universities may make allowances for the stuttered start to the year, it’s unlikely that their contemporaries across both provincial and national borders will view their applications in the same light.

Bella Thomson, a Grade 12 student who organized two sit ins to put pressure on the powers that be to get back to the job of educating students, said that learning and preparing for post high school life is a job that all her peers are anxious to take on, regardless on their educational aims.

“We’re tired of lazing around… school is our life and we’re missing out on crucial time,” she said.

Figuring out how to catch up on lost time is something that everyone in the province will be focusing on in the days ahead, said Hugh Gloster, the Central Okanagan school district superintendent.

“I don’t envy the Ministry,” said Gloster, noting that there are a lot of issues at play right now.

The top questions he’s fielding  have to do with whether or not spring break will be cancelled, or if the school year will be extended.

“Those are decisions that would have to be made provincially,” he said. “If you have to have your whole staff work an extra week… we approved a calendar that didn’t include those weeks… so a consultation process has to happen. If staff has to be made available then somebody has to be made available and it would be very expensive.”

Then there’s the matter the students are concerned with—the actual make-up of lost hours.

“Once the dust settles, the ministry will give us direction around provincial exam schedules,” he said.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said a plan is being developed to make up missed instructional days, which could involve rescheduling Christmas holidays, spring break or adding days to the end of the school year. Every student’s education will be “kept whole,” particularly senior high school students looking ahead to post-secondary studies, he said.

The agreement includes money to settle thousands of union grievances accumulated since the province removed class size and teacher staffing levels from the teacher contract in 2002.

Students in the public school system may be behind, but B.C. has under its umbrella 37 offshore schools—mostly in China— teaching B.C. equivalent curriculum and 12 per cent of students engaged in the independent system.

They are all on course to take exams in the regular timetable.


Kelowna Capital News