The ongoing job action by teachers, which is now a full-scale strike, continues to make waves across School District #83.
On Monday, teachers and their supporters from throughout the district were in Salmon Arm. Carrying picket signs and banners, they walked through downtown, stopping at the school district office, as well as that of Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, to make themselves heard.
The full-scale strike began on Tuesday, with teachers seeking smaller class sizes, more classroom support and a pay raise.
Over the weekend, the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) dropped their wage demands to eight per cent over five years from the previous 9.75 over four plus annual cost of living adjustments.
The BC Public School Employer’s Association (BCPSEA) proposed a wage increase of 7.25, up from their initial offer seven per cent, but a deal could not be reached in time to avert the strike. Each side is saying it’s up to the other to decide if a deal can be reached or not.
In anticipation of the potential strike, students packed up their belongings on Friday – quite possibly, the last school day of the year.
Although classes are currently cancelled, School District #83 issued a statement that graduation ceremonies and provincial exams will go ahead as planned; however, report cards will not be issued as they have not been declared an essential service.
Graduating students at Salmon Arm Secondary still are concerned about missing the last few weeks of their high school years.
“It definitely affects my study habits,” said Madeleine Genn, a Grade 12 student at Salmon Arm Secondary.
Genn says that most teachers use every day to teach their students information that is vital to final exams, and that not having the time messes with the students’ learning.
Jamie Oosterhuis, who is also graduating from SAS, said she and her peers are upset.
“We think that the teachers deserve the best, but them walking out on us during the most crucial time of the year really compromises not only our learning, but our final grades as well,” said Oosterhuis, adding this is the time teachers should be giving students practice provincial exams and course reviews.
“This is very hard on students graduating as well because many students need appropriate final marks to send off to their chosen post-secondary schools,” said Oosterhuis. “I personally feel that the government, along with the teachers, could find a better way to resolve their issues than creating more problems for the students.”
SASS Grade 12 student, Ariana Sholinder says she has mixed feelings about the dispute, and where it’s left graduating students.
“I do support the teachers, but it’s been really hard to have so much uncertainty in my last couple weeks of my high school career,” said Sholinder. “It’s demoralizing.”
Parents of students in School District #83 have also been voicing their opinions on the matter.
Christina Peake and Kerrie Hollatz showed up to picket alongside teachers of Hillcrest Elementary on Thursday, June 11.
Peake said she thinks the media has been unfairly portraying the teachers’ side of the dispute.
“It’s not about the money,” said Peake. “It’s about class sizes and composition.”
Peake and Hollatz said they fully support the teachers.
“The kids are our future, how can you not be in support?” asked Peake.