ABOUT 45 students kicked off their school week today with a walkout to protest the loss of recess and loss of good teachers that’s part of the teacher and school board impasse on contact talks.
The group of students met at Caledonia and walked to Skeena where more joined up for a quiet walk down to the school board office building around lunchtime today, Monday Oct. 3.
When they arrived, a staff member got superintendent of schools and chief executive officer Nancy Wells to come out to speak with the students on the steps.
Grade 10 students Eric Hansen and Chad Mohr from Thornhill Jr. Secondary told Wells good teachers were being “kicked out” and that the lack of recess was hurting their studies.
“We’d like to see something done,” said Hansen.
“We’d like to get our breaks back.”
A break helps students recharge and then they come back into class eager to learn, he added.
Wells told them seniority of teachers determines who stays and who goes.
As for the loss of recess, she could see the students’ point of view.
“We understand you need recess,” she said, adding that for a month the school district had done the best it could with recess supervision.
Teachers withdrew their supervision and school district members were doing the supervision before school, at recess and after school, but it takes up too much time with the other things they have to do, she explained.
So now the school district staff was supervising before and after school only, she said.
Wells suggested the group go to the teachers’ union local office downtown and the students began their walk to the office.
Afterward, Wells said she understood why the students had come to talk and added that she had talked to some students in her office this morning.
At the union office, president of the Terrace District Teachers’ Union Karen Andrews took time out to hear the students’ concerns.
“We did not take away [supervision],” said Andrews.
“She (Nancy Wells) told us it was too time consuming,” said Andrews, adding that the teachers were not consulted about the removal of recess and did not have a say in it.
“We were told you guys did it and you’re saying you didn’t,” said Hansen, adding the students wanted to know why the recess had been taken away.
Andrews said the teachers were looking for better class sizes for students and took job action, which was sanctioned by the Labour Relations Board (LRB), and therefore a legal action, in September.
“..the LRB said recess was not an essential service and was something the school district can cover,” said Andrews.
She said some school district staff like Wells and director of instruction Brent Speidel were covering recesses and the board indicated it would discuss recess with the union; however, the board didn’t discuss it, and just decided to cancel recess.
“Obviously, you were not consulted as you are here with your concerns,”she said.
Hansen said that Grades 10, 11, 12 are the most important years of school and students were losing out on them.
After their talk with Andrews, Hansen and Mohr said students would walk out again tomorrow – today’s walkout protest included some Skeena Junior students, a couple from Caledonia Senior and most were from Thornhill Junior – and most of those students would be from Caledonia.
Student walkouts will continue and will get bigger every day, they said.
Students in the whole school district and parents too were invited to get involved in the walkouts so they could be as big as possible.