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New West teachers to hit picket line for third time Wednesday

Teachers at Tweedsmuir elementary school man their picket line on Monday as part of the BC Teachers
Teachers at Tweedsmuir elementary school man their picket line on Monday as part of the BC Teachers' Federation's rotating strikes to put pressure on contract negotiations.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

The B.C. Teachers Federation's third round of rotating strikes will have New Westminster schools behind picket linesĀ  Wednesday.

The latest round begins Tuesday with Greater Victoria teachers the only ones on strike. But today there will be strikes at 22 districts including Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver, West Vancouver and New Westminster.

New West was also on strike when the second round of rotating strikes concluded Friday, June 6.

New Westminster superintendent/CEO John Gaiptman said no district events will be affected by the strikes. He said today was the only one night this week without a big event scheduled and none were on the calendar for Friday, June 6 either.

"New Westminster parents have been incredibly supportive, so they understand because of safety issues how important it is to keep them home on those days," said New Westminster superintendent John Gaiptman. "Teachers have been nothing short of phenomenal. The work in the classrooms has been amazing, there's a nice tone to the schools, they're working hard with the students. I've been saying this from the beginning what continuously impresses me is the work being done in the classroom. With all that's been happening they've been able to keep that away from the classroom and provide excellent service."

But he admitted if the time lost accumulates it will eventually take its toll on the children's education.

"I really believe if we find a settlement soon, the three days won't have a negative effect because everybody is just working hard on the other four days to catch up for the other missed day. But the key here is there has to be a settlement soon. At some point I won't be able to say [it won't have a negative effect]," said Gaiptman.

B.C. teachers were voting early this week on authorizing a province-wide strike. Gaiptman said the district is working on contingency plans for a full-out strike, which couldn't start until June 16 at the earliest. They're also looking at what needs to be done if the province locks out the teachers for the last three days of school.

"We're looking at all the different scenarios. We're also speaking with our union officials with the school district to make sure we're both understanding the parameters the same way. In the end we also have to know some of this stuff might end up at the Labour Relations Board and we'll have to adjust on the fly," said Gaiptman. "We don't want to get caught. You have to anticipate all possible outcomes."

He said courses are close to being completed and high school exams will be held this week.

"I don't think you're going to see chaos," said Gaiptman. "We will make sure our students are not penalized. Report cards might look a little bit different, but we'll get through this. We'll make sure we'll get through this, and make sure we're ready to start in September. Hopefully all will be settled well before then. Right now we're going through some difficulties but it's certainly not chaos."

New Westminster secondary principal Phil Cookson said the school's end-of-the-year ceremonies will go ahead as planned even if the teachers are locked out by the province June 26-27.

The convocation will be at Queen's Park Arena on Thursday, June 26 starting at 7 p.m. The dry grad will follow afterward at the Queensborough Community Centre until 2 a.m. The grad dinner and dance will be the next evening at the Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside.

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