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Summer holidays start early for Parksville Qualicum Beach students

TEACHERS MARCH: About 80 local teachers gathered in downtown Parksville on Monday afternoon before heading to the office of Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell (above). - PETER McCULLY PHOTO
TEACHERS MARCH: About 80 local teachers gathered in downtown Parksville on Monday afternoon before heading to the office of Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell (above).
— image credit: PETER McCULLY PHOTO

While teachers and the government continue negotiating, a full scale, province-wide strike is set to start today (June 17).

With two weeks left in the regular school year, the strike leaves a lot of questions.

"As a precautionary measure in the event that a timely settlement is not reached by the parties, we would ask that students take all personal belongings with them at the end of the day today," said District 69 superintendent Rollie Koop in a letter to parents Friday.

After three weeks of rotating single day strikes and partial lockout, the B.C. Teachers' Federation gave notice last week of the full strike starting Tuesday, with a "study session" Monday also cancelling classes.

That left parents figuring out what to do with young students who might be starting summer holidays, but have to wait to see.

"We do remain guardedly optimistic that the parties can get together at the provincial level and reach a settlement," Koop told The NEWS before the weekend, during which the two sides where busy bargaining but didn't have any news by Monday morning.

"We just don't want folks to be reliant on being able to access a building to get something in the interim, particularly study materials for our grade 10 to 12 students who will be writing provincial exams at the end of next week," he said.

For younger students there are a number of activities in the area, led by the Regional District of Nanaimo's Big Adventure Camp this week during the strike.

Based at Oceanside Place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for $31.50 a day, open to children 12 and under, including ice skating, trips to parks, crafts, games and more.

The pool and skating rink will also still be open for scheduled public swim and skate times. For more information, or to register visit www.rdn.bc.ca and click on Oceanside Place near the top, call 250-248-3252 or stop by the arena or Ravensong Aquatic Centre.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, Central Vancouver Island medical health officer with Island Health, which licenses daycares, told The NEWS that parents looking for last-minute daycare should start by talking to their existing daycare providers.

He points out that anyone taking care of three or more children that are not their own are required to be licensed and that people would not likely be able to get licensed in time for this strike.

“Many families are already grappling with child care for the summer, which they may have to accelerate,” he said. He said in previous strikes they have found unlicensed daycares, but said they are generally well-meaning people who “might just be unaware of the requirements.”

That said, families sharing child care can be a good solution, he said, as long as the numbers are small and “the children need to be in safe and thriving environments.”

As for other impacts of the strike on the local district, Koop said that, “the minister (of education Peter Fassbender) has said that 80 per cent of any savings that occur on salaries or other items as a result of teacher job action will be returned to the province to fund whatever settlement ultimately is reached, 20 per cent would stay here in the district in recognition of all the additional work that has to be done.”

Students in Grades 10-12 will still write provincial exams as scheduled, but most other school-related activities are cancelled. Grad commencement ceremonies are still planned, but will be relocated to Oceanside Place on June 26.

On Monday morning Fassbender said: “Our goal remains to get to an agreement by June 30 and put this disruption behind us. I’m certain that everyone involved wants to head into the summer with the assurance that our education system is on a path to long-term stability.”

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