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Coquitlam students march to air education funding concerns

Students from Dr. Charles Best secondary school in Coquitlam held a march to the Port Moody office of a local MLA Monday to demonstrate their concerns about public education funding. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Students from Dr. Charles Best secondary school in Coquitlam held a march to the Port Moody office of a local MLA Monday to demonstrate their concerns about public education funding.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Some Coquitlam secondary school students took to the streets today, Monday, to air their concerns about public education funding and the current lockout and rotating strikes that are affecting schools across B.C.

Calling themselves "Students for Students" the Social Justice 12 students from Dr. Charles Best secondary used their lunch break to walk to the Port Moody office of MLA Linda Reimer, where they marched with placards saying "Save BC Education."

Shanel Feller, one of the marchers, said she was concerned that School District 43 budget cuts are affecting the ability of teachers to deliver courses such as library, drama, graphics and other programs.

"Anything extra is being cut," Feller said, citing lack of funding as the problem because SD43 is one of the lowest-funded districts in the province. "We want our voices heard," she said.

Students also expressed concerns that the lack of a settlement to teachers' bargaining was affecting extra-curricular programs and lunch-hour support for students.

Emily Bayrock said she's concerned about students in younger grades that she said will be stuck with fewer course options and other issues, such as help for special needs, next school year while she graduates.

Student rally

"It's ridiculous they have to suffer," said Bayrock, who is in Grade 12 at the school.

Social Just 12 teacher Ken Ipe said he supported the march as long as students didn't miss school but noted it was a student initiative as he wasn't around to help plan it as he was sick last week.

Still, as the Coquitlam Teachers' Association staff rep for the school, Ipe said he appreciated the support of students.

According to Ipe, lockout provisions instituted by the BC Public Sector Employers' Association have created confusion as to what is expected of teachers who face a 10% cut in pay and restrictions on specific non-instructional tasks. He said the teachers voted to ban volunteer and extra-curricular activities at the school for now. "It's quite discouraging," he said.

He also said he expects students to support teachers on the picket line Wednesday when it's SD43's turn to strike for one day.

Meanwhile, BCPSEA has produced a circular to explain to parents what they can expect with the teachers' withdrawal of services and the employers' lockout. It's available here.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

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