Students poured out of Coast Mountains School District (CMSD) schools this afternoon, uncertain as to whether they’ll be back next week.
Monday is a scheduled study session by public school teachers and Tuesday could very well be the first day of a full-scale province-wide strike should the province and teachers fail to reach a new contract.
Students were told to clean out desks and lockers, meaning some left the buildings burdened down with packs, bags and, in one case, a fish bowl.
Activities on what could have been the last day of school for the year varied.
There was an end of the year assembly at Uplands Elementary while at Ecole Mountainview, students took part in National Aboriginal Day activities – one week ahead of the original schedule.
Superintendent Katherine McIntosh said that dispite the emptying of desks and classrooms, schools would be prepared to welcome students back if an agreement is reached.
“We would love to have students back in school, we would love to see a resolution to the labour dispute between BCPSEA (BC Public School Employees’ Association, the province’s representative) and the BCTF (BC Teachers’ Federation) and we would welcome students back,” she said. “We would just work through that. Students would bring back enough materials and supplies to get to the end of the year, to be able to participate in class and complete their studies.”
And exams for students in Grade 10 through 12 will go on as scheduled, with the Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruling earlier this week that the administration and marking of those exams is an essential service.
But that doesn’t mean teachers in the CMSD will have to work exams, as there is enough exempt district staff to administer and mark the exams, confirmed McIntosh.
“We have worked with our teachers’ union around that, and actually we have enough exempt staff that we will invigilating exams without requiring teachers to do it,” she said. “We’ve got enough principals, vice principals, district office staff.”
That means an extra strain on staff and administrators during a busy time of year but “it’s an important task and we’re committed to doing a really good job of it for our students,” she said.
The district is still hopeful for a resolution, she said.
“We make our decisions right now based on the most recent information we have from BCPSEA and BCTF, so at this point in time we still understand that Monday is the rotating strike and Tuesday is the full walkout, but we are hopeful that there can be a resolution before the end of the year and students can return to classes,” she said.