Countdown is on to reach settlement

Kimberley Independent School ready to roll on September 2; public school students wait for word on strike/lockout

It is the last week of summer vacation — or at least it should be — but it is looking like Kimberley public school students will be extending their vacation into the fall.

On a positive note, BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker and Minister of Education Peter Fassbender are meeting face to face today to try to reach an end to the ongoing strike/lockout.

Both the BCTF and the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) have agreed to media silence during arbitration with mediator Vince Ready, although both Fassbender and Iker  have spoken to the media in recent days.

Rocky Mountain SD6 has posted the following information on their website this week:

“There is still no resolution to the labour dispute between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Public School Employers’ Association. This means that teachers remain on strike, and we will not be able to open schools for students until the situation changes. When we are able to confirm the start day for students we will post general school opening information.”

However, not all Kimberley students are waiting for an end to the labour dispute. Those enrolled at the Kimberley Independent School will be starting class next week on September 2.

KIS Principal Cal Johnson says he and his staff are ready for school to begin, and they are taking some calls from parents of public school students inquiring about possible enrollment at the independent school for their children this year.

“Right now the numbers are up a couple of students from last year,” Johnson said. “We’ve been taking a few calls from parents who say they’ve had enough of the labour dispute.”

The calls are mainly inquiries about the upper grades, eight and nine. Johnson says the Pre-K class is down a little, and doesn’t typically fill up until the school year is underway.

He says the school could take a few more students, but there are wait lists for certain grades. Currently there are 108 students enrolled at the school for the 2014/2015 school year.

Earlier this summer the BC government offered to pay $40 per child under 13 to parents to assist in child care as the labour dispute continues. However, the fine print on that offer reads that the money won’t be paid out until the strike/lockout is over.

On a visit to Kimberley earlier this summer, the Premier also said that teachers would not be legislated back to work.

Still, hope remains that things will be settled sooner rather than later.

Paul Carriere, Superintendent of School District Six says that instructional minutes required are set out in the School Act.

“Clearly we are hopeful of a resolution,  and do anticipate that this dispute will not carry on for a long period of time and so any impact will hopefully be minor. But if a school year is shortened due to a labour dispute, a district may not be able to offer the required minutes in particular courses or programs. However, curricula are designed around prescribed learning outcomes, which are not tightly tied to specific amounts of time. I would add that while school districts are required to provide 878 hours of instruction to grades 1-7 students (for example), there is no rule that says that a student must be in class for 878 hours to complete a grade. “Completion” is based on learning outcomes being met. I believe teachers will have enough time to provide for students to meet critical outcomes of any course or program of study — although they may have less time for exploring topics aimed at less critical outcomes.

“As a system we will be focused on ensuring that students meet prescribed outcomes and in the case of Grade 12  students, that they are well prepared for work or post-secondary opportunities.”