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Report cards, grad ceremonies in jeopardy?

Don Bodger/file Students in Sunrise Waldorf Grade 4 teacher Lisa Hitch’s class are anxious to answer a question earlier this year. They and other private school students will continue classes  as usual next week while those in the public system will deal with a one-day walkout. - Don Bodger/file
Don Bodger/file Students in Sunrise Waldorf Grade 4 teacher Lisa Hitch’s class are anxious to answer a question earlier this year. They and other private school students will continue classes as usual next week while those in the public system will deal with a one-day walkout.
— image credit: Don Bodger/file

The war of words is turning into a war of action between B.C. teachers and the provincial government, as Cowichan students prepare to take Thursday, May 29, off from school.

The B.C. government fired a shot Wednesday that increased the tension: 10% of teachers’ wages would be clawed back coinciding with the beginning of the rotating strikes being launched Monday around the province.

The government also announced a series of partial and full lockouts starting Monday where teachers would be forbidden to be at school more than 45 minutes before or after class time and forbidden from working during recess and lunchtime. In addition, all secondary teachers will be locked out June 25 and 26, and both elementary and secondary teachers on June 27.

“It kind of came as quite the shock,’’ said Cowichan District Teachers’ Association president Naomi Nilsson. “Clearly, the people who drafted it, they’re not teachers.’’

The 45-minute conditions at either end of the day and not utilizing lunch would mean “we can’t possibly do report cards in that time in addition to prepping for classes,’’ said Nilsson.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker held a news conference Thursday morning to denounce the actions. He noted the stop-work order would disrupt after-hours activities such as graduation ceremonies which the union sought to protect in the early stages of strike action.

“No more calls to parents, no more emails home, it all comes to an end because of the lockout,’’ said Iker.

“At this point, we’re hoping they definitely reconsider this,’’ said Nilsson. “It’s unworkable as it is.’’

B.C. Public School Employers’ Association chief negotiator Peter Cameron said Thursday the lockout terms match existing union work hour restrictions and do not interfere with voluntary activity.

Teachers can choose not to contact parents or take part in graduation, but the lockout doesn’t prevent that and there is no pay to cut for such volunteer activities, Cameron said.

Meanwhile, School District 79 superintendent Joe Rhodes advised parents and guardians to keep students at home Thursday on the day rotating strikes hit the valley. Teachers here will fully withdraw services and erect picket lines at all schools and district work sites.

“While schools will remain open under the supervision of school district staff, we will be unable to provide students with any instruction,’’ Rhodes pointed out in his letter. “School buses will not be running. In the interest of student safety, we are requesting that parents keep their children at home on Thursday, May 29.

“We sincerely hope that this dispute will be concluded quickly and that normal school operations will resume as soon as possible.’’

The Cowichan Valley Regional District was quick to jump in, offering a solution to parents with day care needs.

The CVRD’s Recreation and Culture Department has organized day camps for children on Thursday at the Island Savings and Kerry Park Recreation Centres. The camps for kids six to 12 will include games, activities, crafts and swimming.

— with a file from Tom Fletcher

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