Schools behind picket lines today

A picket sign stuck in the front door at the School District 43 board office is a stark reminder that schools are behind picket lines today, and likely into the week. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
A picket sign stuck in the front door at the School District 43 board office is a stark reminder that schools are behind picket lines today, and likely into the week.

The traditional back-to-school routine took a dramatic turn in School District 43 and across the province Tuesday as classes remained empty and teachers and CUPE members walked picket lines.

Talks at an impasse

Here's a news round-up from what was supposed to be the first day of school.

• SD43 superintendent Tom Grant and his district leadership team remained hunkered down in meetings for most of the day but district staff posted a note to parents asking them not to send their children to school during the strike.

"We do not have the capacity to supervise large numbers of students nor to offer educational programs. We respectfully ask that parents do not bring children to schools on Tuesday and for the duration of the strike," Grant said in a statement.

• Teachers were on the picket lines in front of their schools by 8:30 a.m. — even earlier in some places. At Pinetree secondary, the mood was solemn. "I would love to be back at school under better circumstances," said Barbara Moffatt, an English and ESL teacher at Pinetree secondary since 1999. "People are pretty united and I think we're really disappointed with how the negotiations haven't been going. I don't know how long it's going to take but we'll just have to take it one day at a time."

• Many CUPE Local 561 members joined the picket line and many are in the same financial straits as striking teachers, noted Dave Ginter, the local president, who said the district's 1,200 support workers aren't getting paid during the strike but could get reimbursed after Nov. 30 if they have signed a new contract by that time.

Bargaining is expected to start next week, he said, "We're going to negotiate and move on," Ginter said, stating that job security is the most important issue for his workers.

• Parents scrambling for daycare will get $40 a day from the province's Temporary Education Support for Parents (TESP). Some likely enrolled in fall camps in Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam that were set up for the strike. Robert Randall of the Young Actors Project, who usually makes his living teaching the arts to students in SD43 and elsewhere, said his camp runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Burquest Jewish Community Centre and offers drama games, and exercises, creative writing, and reading.

• Meanwhile, Moe Kopahi, vice-president of University Relations for the Simon Fraser Student Society, is looking at organizing study sessions for Grade 12 students in courses such as physics, math, English and chemistry if the strike continues into October and he gets the OK from his lawyers. Details are available on his Facebook page.


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