Will Coquitlam district schools open on time Sept. 2?
With B.C. teacher talks taking place under a cone of silence and little to no news on the labour front, School District 43 is planning for various scenarios in case schools don't open Sept. 2.
However, in one respect schools are proceeding as normal as administrators will be in their offices beginning next Monday, Aug. 25 to deal with new student registration.
"We're remaining hopeful for a settlement — we're hoping schools will be back very quickly if not [Sept. 2], but very quickly," said SD43 trustee Melissa Hyndes.
As the province's negotiators and BC Teachers' Federation work out their differences with mediator Vince Ready prepared to step in once the two sides are closer, a cloud of anxiety hangs over SD43 teachers.
Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King said he will attend the BCTF's summer conference in Kamloops this weekend and will use the opportunity for learning and collaborating. But for most teachers the wait for a deal that includes provision for class size and composition resources is agonizing.
"We're just hanging tough at the moment," King said. "I imagine there will more ups and downs before this thing is settled."
Adding to the labour strife is uncertainty among laid off teachers about who will get some work in the 2014/15 school year after 600 teachers were laid off in the spring to save $13.4 million.
King said the recall process is still taking place but "very slowly" and it's not known how many teachers will be laid off permanently.
He also took issue with a new government website offering resources for parents during the school strike.
The website, available at bcparentinfo.ca, provides an update to the bargaining, links to free activities and materials for students, and is where parents can register to receive $40 a day per child in temporary education support if the strike continues past Sept. 2.
"It's almost like the education equivalent of self-serve gasoline," King commented.
According to Education Minister Peter Fassbender, BCTF demands remain far behind what other public sector unions have received in settled contracts.
Meanwhile, SD43 is planning its own list of resources and information to keep parents in the loop. Hyndes said the information will be put on the district's website under the banner "Putting students first" starting this Friday.
"It will be updated continuously as we see things ramp up next week," Hyndes confirmed.
As to whether parents should prepare for a school opening after Labour Day, Hyndes recommended that parents proceed as usual.
"Coquitlam (district) schools are ready to open," she said. "Carry on as you usually do ramping up for school start."