Back to school will look a little different today for Central Okanagan Superintendent of Schools Hugh Gloster.
As the doors open on the first day of classes, Gloster will be on site stick-handling morning supervision and personally seeing to it that at least one school of children make it into their teachers’ care safely.
“We will have people at every elementary school and I’ll be out there too,” said Gloster late last week as he tried to explain how the school district has decided to handle outside class supervision under teachers strike conditions.
In order to cover supervision before and after school every employee at the school district’s administrative office and the ones working on maintenance sites will be called into action as teachers refuse outside classroom duties in the first phase of job action.
The Central Okanagan School District was one of the first to announce last week it would cancel the afternoon recess in order to meet the demand. Lunch-hour supervision, Gloster explained, is handled by CUPE support staff, and will therefore go on as per usual, but the district determined it would be impossible to get administrative employees—ranging from secretaries to the directors of various programs—out to every elementary school mid-day to spell off the usual teacher supervision time without causing severe problems at the district administration level.
As such, recess has been cancelled and schools will be closing 15 minutes earlier at the elementary level.
The change is one of the more obvious impacts of the strike, though there are others.
Teachers will stop everything from collecting money for field trips to filing report cards and attending meetings until the union and the government have signed a contract, meaning some of the usual extras might not get done; although the union has been very clear they are trying to avoid impacting the students.
“Teachers will be preparing and teaching lessons mindful of the individual needs of their students and they will be assessing and evaluating progress and keeping marks,” BCTF president Susan Lambert wrote in an opinion column published last week in the Vancouver Sun.
“They’ll be helping students who need assistance, and of course they’ll be available in case of emergencies,” Lambert said.
Contract negotiations are complicated in B.C., where the B.C. Teachers’ Federation is the union representing teachers provincially, while there are still individual member organizations at each school district handling local negotiations.
The BCTF’s local organization, the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association, negotiates smaller, non-financial matters with the Central Okanagan School District, while the BCTF handles money and matters relating to money at a bargaining table with the BC Public School Employers’ Association.
This division of negotiations is among the items up for debate, however; with teachers asking for more local control.
A letter to parents will be going home today outlining exactly what is happening, and a copy is already available on the Central Okanagan School District’s web site.
The letter states this first phase of job action will not include picket lines, but will see staff withdrawing from staff meetings, professional development, delivering Foundation Skills Assessment tests, organizing school photos and supervising detentions among a long list of other duties.