School ready to open Monday after teachers vote to end strike

Teachers voted across the province Thursday, with 86 per cent voting in favour of accepting a new deal

Area schools are ready to open the doors to students.

After studying the tentative deal reached this week between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and provincial negotiators, teachers voted across the province Thursday, with 86 per cent voting in favour of accepting a new deal.

BC Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker released the results of the vote Thursday night in a webcast from the union headquarters. The six-year agreement is the longest term ever negotiated for a union that has worked under imposed terms for much of the past 30 years.

“I want to thank the members of the Vernon Teachers’ Association for their courageous stand and the huge sacrifices they’ve made on the picket lines,” said Heather Malcolm, VTA president.  “While the deal isn’t perfect, teachers were able to get new money invested in schools and reach a mutually agreed-to process to deal with any future court decision on class size, class composition, and staffing levels.”

Picket lines remained up until the teachers voted on ratification.

“We haven’t been in the schools for 15 weeks. It takes time for teachers and other staff to prepare properly for classes to start. This would have normally been done during unpaid time in the summer,” said Malcolm.

Barring a no vote by teachers, School District 83 will be opening the doors to students for a half-day on Monday.

The district has released more details of return-to-school plans, which mimic the usual routine of students going back for a half-day before returning the next day for a complete school day. Monday will have students end school three hours earlier than usual, with regular schedules beginning on Tuesday.

Gradual entry programs for kindergarten students will also continue as laid out by each elementary school.

“If the agreement is ratified, we will be very happy and relieved, to welcome our students and staff back to school,” said district superintendent Glenn Borthistle. “We would like to acknowledge that this has been a very difficult time for all our teachers, students and families.”

The district also indicates that, at this time, the Ministry of Education does not have plans to adjust the school calendar by adding time to each school day, extending the year or shortening winter or spring breaks.

At the secondary level, school districts will have the option of balancing the two semesters so that each section will have equal instructional time. This option has not yet been determined in District 83.

Borthistle says schools are currently ready for the students.

“Our school facilities are in good condition. Our operations crew worked over the summer to prepare our buildings for the new school year – floors are polished, equipment is upgraded and classrooms have been cleaned.”

Bus transportation will also resume as usual, however, if parents have questions, they can contact the transportation department at 250-832-9415.

For the Vernon School District, the start of the school year will be the same as usual Monday, a half day for students in Grades 1 to 12, and a gradual entry for kindergarten students.

District superintendent Joe Rogers said all details of the back-to-school plans are now up on the Web site at sd22.bc.ca. But meanwhile, trustees and administrators are optimistic that school will indeed be back in session next week.

“We want to welcome the kids back and we also need to know how many are coming, by doing a half day it will allow us to add extra staffing if necessary,” said Rogers. “We’re not sure how many students to expect as we may have lost some to St. James, Vernon Christian School and Aberdeen, so we need to put the right number of staff in front of the kids, and most districts are doing it this way.

“We are feeling optimistic at this point — it has been a very emotional time, and a very difficult time for teachers, but I really appreciate the support that we’ve gotten from teachers and the public.

“Everybody wants what’s best for children and there is nobody in the City of Vernon or the province of British Columbia that doesn’t want what’s best for the kids.

“They are starting towards some improvements to the system, especially class composition. There is more that needs to happen and we don’t have all the funding that we need to have, but we have more and it should lead to some improvements because we all want what is best for children.”

 

 

 

Vernon Morning Star

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