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Terrace students participate in provincial-wide walkout

Skeena Middle School students rally in front of the Coast Mountains School District office in Terrace, B.C. June 4, 2014.  - Anna Killen
Skeena Middle School students rally in front of the Coast Mountains School District office in Terrace, B.C. June 4, 2014.
— image credit: Anna Killen

Nearly 100 Terrace students walked out of their classrooms this morning in protest of the ongoing labour dispute between the province and teachers' union.

Students from Skeena Middle School and Caledonia Secondary School walked out at 9 a.m. this morning in concert with students across B.C. The walkout, which falls on the only day this week teachers in the province are not scheduled to participate in rotating strikes, was largely organized and spread on social media. Its aim is to call attention to the impact the ongoing dispute between the BC Teachers' Federation and the provincial bargaining arm, the BC Public School Employers' Association, is having on students.

The Terrace students headed to the Coast Mountains School Board office at the corner of Kenney and Hwy16 where they rallied as passing cars and transport trucks honked in support.

"I just want it to stop, I want our education back," said Jerico Jack, a Grade 9 student at Skeena.

Jack, who attended Thornhill Junior Secondary three years ago when student walkouts were held, said because of the dispute between the province and teachers' union, students don't have enough time to study for end-of-year tests and exams.

"Our education pretty much means the rest of our lives, we need it," she said.

Grade 8 student Madison Budden echoed her concerns.

"My science grades have dropped and I can't get help from my teacher at lunch or after school or before school," said Budden. "I just want an agreement."

The students said they were frustrated extra-curricular activities, like their year-end dance, were cancelled or affected.

"Some of us are going to the (BC Summer Games) and we can't practice," said Grade 9 student Tanisha Davis. She said they still get to go to the games, which take place in Nanaimo this July, but they have to practise without the help of their coaches.

"We have to do it all on our own, we can't get the help we need," said Davis.

The students were part of about 30 students left rallying at the board office at around 9:40 a.m., and they said they planned to stay all day. Students appeared to be coming and going from the rally spot, trading off placards and homemade signs.

Some students ended up at various refreshment places around town, including Starbucks at Safeway.

A June 3 notice sent by the school district to parents and guardians regarding the potential walkout said that while it is responsible for the safety of students while on school property, “student safety cannot be guaranteed for students participating in walkout activities outside of school property, even if those activities take place during school hours.”

The notice, distributed over the signature of school superintendent Katherine McIntosh, did say it respects “the voice of students and their legitimate right to share their concerns ….”

The walkout comes in advance of a second strike day by Coast Mountains school teachers on Friday, June 6.

The strike day is a continuation of rotating strikes across the province.

Coast Mountains teachers held their first strike day on May 26. That same day the province began a phased lockout of teachers.

Teachers and the province cannot agree on wage increases and teachers are additionally pressing the province to lower class sizes and to provide more assistance for students with special needs.

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