School District 43 teachers and students are wrapping up a week of job action, rallies and study sessions - followed by two days of classes - and looking forward to a two-week spring break.
The week was marked by orderly protests outside Tri-City public schools and a student sit-in at the district board office to raise awareness of youth concerns.
As well, fewer students made it to classrooms as the week progressed and job action to protest Bill 22 closed schools.
Only four elementary and three middle school students showed up to schools on Tuesday, and five elementary school students on Wednesday, according to School District 43.
More high school students have been showing up, about 20 on Tuesday and 58 on Wednesday, but it was mostly Terry Fox students who wanted to take part in sports.
On Monday, 56 students showed up at schools, about half of them high school students.
One of the reasons for the drop in numbers of elementary students attending schools could be the district's decision Monday to allow on-site private daycares to extend their hours to include the period from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the job action.
Also this week, a group of drama students met at the district board office on Tuesday to raise awareness about the effect of job action on a Terry Fox musical. The school is set to mount Legally Blonde but the cancellation of rehearsals plus uncertainty about future job action is making it difficult to set a date for the musical and sell tickets, explained student Brooklyn Crick, who organized the demonstration.
The BC Teachers' Federation has decided to postpone any more job action but the province's 41,000 teachers will vote next weekend on what to do next in their campaign against Bill 22.
Two press releases issued by the federation this week expressed concerns that the removal of class size limits for Grades 4 to 12 will hurt drama and music classes. The bill allows larger classes without consultation with teachers if a principal and superintendent consider learning conditions appropriate.
Teachers say they are worried drama classes with more than 30 students will be difficult to manage. Currently, two teachers can teach a large class.
"It is a good way to do it," says Colin Plant, president of the Association of BC Drama Educators. "The large class allows us to mount large-scale musicals that are elaborate and spectacular."
But for just one teacher to teach a class of 55 students, as could be the situation in his case, would be "unfathomable," Plant said in the press release.
Currently in SD43, only band and choir classes are allowed to have more than 30 students. But other classes in the higher grades often reach the maximum and teachers are worried that is affecting student learning.
At a recent board of education meeting, SD43 shop teachers complained their class sizes are too large to adequately teach their subjects. The teachers said they would like to see middle school technology classes reduced to 24 students, from about 30, and high school shop classes reduced to 20, from 24, as recommended by the BC Technology Teachers' Association Best Practices Guide.
In elementary grades, where classes sizes are firm, the district typically creates split classes to stay within the required maximum.
Monday is the start of a two-week spring break in School District 43. Last spring, the board of education approved the longer break, made up by adding 10 minutes of instructional time per day throughout the school year, to save $400,000 in substitute teacher costs. On March 27, a school board meeting will be held to discuss the 2012/'13 budget. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the district office board room.