Thousands of students at Surrey high schools are planning to walk out of class this afternoon in support of B.C. teachers, who will be on strike for three days beginning Monday.
“We are showing that we care because this is our education,” said Jen Bhindi, a Grade 9 student at L.A. Matheson. “We do care about the class sizes because it’s not only difficult for teachers to teach, but it’s difficult for us to learn.”
She said students at her school plan to gather in neighbouring Moffat Park, carrying posters and banners.
Bhindi said she and about seven student organizers at her school are not only telling fellow students about the walkout, but explaining why it’s important.
“Some people actually do think they can just skip,” she said. “We’re going to all the classes and we’re going to explain what the whole point of this is. Some people think it’s pointless, but if we show each other that we can do this, it can happen.”
About 40 Earl Marriott Secondary (EMS) students started the protest early, staging a walkout around 9:30 a.m. Friday to gather along either side of 16 Avenue in South Surrey with placards and airhorns.
Encouraging drivers – many of whom answered the call – to ‘honk for teachers’, the students confirmed they are on the teachers’ side.
“They need more money,” Jackie Czarnecki, in Grade 12, said, noting teachers don’t get paid enough for the work they do.
Czarnecki and Shelby Busby said they believe next week’s strike action will work in the teachers’ favour.
“I think they’re going to get what they want out of it,” Czarnecki said.
“I think it’s good for them to stand up,” added Busby.
EMS principal Peter Johnston speculated that not all of the students who joined the early walkout were there for the cause.
“The ones with the signs obviously thought through it,” he said.
Czarnecki and a few others who camped out on the thoroughfare’s south side pledged to hold their ground all day.
Students at Elgin Park, Panorama Ridge and Sullivan Heights in Surrey have also indicated they’ll be walking out this afternoon.
B.C. teachers served strike notice Thursday morning after a provincewide vote in favour of escalating job action. The move came two days after the provincial government tabled legislation forcing teachers back to regular classroom duties. Since September, they have refused to meet with administrators or complete report cards and months of contract negotiations have been fruitless. Teachers will not be in classrooms Monday through Wednesday.
A Facebook page was set up earlier this week by some Vancouver students called BC High School Student Walkout. Feelings appear to be mixed on the page. While some teens are highly supportive of the movement, asking where to be and when, others call it “national skip day” and say teachers have no right to complain. Still, more than 18,000 people indicated they’re attending walkouts provincewide, with many planning to gather at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Meanwhile, parent reaction is also split, with many taking their opinions to Facebook or other social media.
Leo Wang said the strike shows “most of our teachers don’t care about our kids, don’t care about student, just money for themselves.”
Lacey Donaldson said the strike “sucks” but added “having a child myself with special needs and not getting the help he needs in school makes me understand their reasoning.”
Education George Abbott has said schools will be open (because other non-BCTF staff will be working) and it’s up to parent whether to send their kids or not, many school districts, including Surrey and Delta, are strongly encouraging parents to seek other child care options due to insufficient supervision.