School District 43 students walk out of classes in protest

Some School District 43 students walked out of classes Wednesday morning to protest the lack of a resolution to teachers
Some School District 43 students walked out of classes Wednesday morning to protest the lack of a resolution to teachers' negotiations.

Some School District 43 students took to the streets Wednesday to express their concerns about the ongoing teachers' dispute.

They joined students from dozens of schools in Surrey, New Westminster and Vancouver, among other cities, to protest the lack of progress being made in labour negotiations between the provincial government and the BC Teachers' Federation.

The walkouts come as the BCTF has announced it has reduced its package in seven areas, including salary, benefits, preparation time and [substitute teachers'] compensation.

A new BCTF wage proposal

The new BCTF wage proposal is a total increase of 9.75% over four years, plus cost-of-living adjustments in each year depending on inflation. BCTF president Jim Iker has estimated that with inflation, the total increase would be 12.75% over four years.

The B.C. Public School Employers' Association representing the province's 60 school districts, meanwhile, has proposed a 7.5% increase over six years, and recently added a $1,200 signing bonus for an agreement by the end of the school year.

But for students protesting at Minnekhada middle school and Riverside secondary in Port Coquitlam, a resolution to the dispute plus other issues were top of mind.

Below: Riverside secondary students protested outside their school.


At Riverside, a group of students carried signs and waved to passing vehicles, saying they were troubled by SD43 budget cuts, which have trimmed supply budgets to the bone, forcing teachers to buy supplies with their own money or students have to make do with recycled materials and fewer art supplies.

"I think teachers are being treated unfairly," said Tara Lewis, a Grade 11 student.

Michael Lane, a Grade 9 student, said he wanted the dispute resolved soon and his colleagues Abbey Macey, Erin Dinning and Trenton Bonkowski said they were upset that a partial lockout has compounded the problem of teacher walkouts, making it difficult to talk to teachers to prepare for exams, and they are unhappy with the fact that concerts and rehearsals have been cancelled.

"The teachers are trying their hardest, but there is no way this can't impact us," said Dinning.

The Riverside students said they were also upset that the district hasn't be able to upgrade computers, and students entering Grade 9 next year will have to bring their own tablets or iPads.

"I couldn't afford one of those things even if I wanted," said Bonkowski, who is in Grade 11.

The students missed a block of school to do the walk out, which stretched into their lunch hour. Among the courses missed by the students were gym, social studies and family studies.

Meanwhile, protests at middle schools were kept short. Students at Minnekhada protested briefly and students at other schools were told not not walk out because middle schools are closed campuses.

— with files from Tom Fletcher


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