B.C. Teachers' Strike News Could Come Just Days Before Scheduled School Year

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Teachers picket in Kamloops-Thompson earlier this month.
Teachers picket in Kamloops-Thompson earlier this month.

Parents of public school students in Vancouver could get as little as five days notice of whether or not schools will open as scheduled on Sept. 2.

Steve Cardwell, Vancouver's superintendent of schools, said parents may have to wait until Friday, Aug. 29 to find out if teachers and their employer have reached a negotiated contract in time for the start of the school year.

"I am sorry that the normally exciting beginning to a new school year has been reduced to this high level of uncertainty. This is a frustrating, disappointing and worrying time for everyone," Cardwell said in a letter to parents.

He said the Aug. 29 date gives teachers and their employer the maximum amount of time to reach a deal.

Cardwell also warned that even if an agreement comes in time, course schedules could be disrupted.

On Thursday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender came under fire for making the rounds in media interviews. The president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation called on the minister to follow a media blackout that all sides agreed to when veteran mediator Vince Ready consented to monitor the contract negotiations.

"It is unhelpful that the minister is again playing politics in the media instead of allowing bargaining to resume behind closed doors," said BCTF President Jim Iker in a statement. "It shows a lack of integrity and highlights the government’s ongoing attempts to derail meaningful negotiations."

Fassbender did not speak about the bargaining in Thursday's interviews, but highlighted that the province would not legislate teachers back to work.

The union has been pushing for smaller class sizes and more support for students.

Striking teachers who have been active on social media rallied behind a new Twitter campaign with the hashtag #IWillHoldTheLine, to express what they're fighting for.

In a blog for The Huffington Post B.C., Chilliwack teacher Cecelia Griffiths wrote:

For all of the children who sit in class, waiting their turn for help, while the teacher struggles to hold on to another, more distressed student, #IWillHoldTheLine.

For all of the parents who have sat in my office, tears in their eyes and on their faces, begging for the help their children needed, but could not access, #IWillHoldTheLine.

For the school psychologists I know who have become seriously physically ill, exacerbated by the stress of knowing they cannot possibly keep up with the needs for assessment, #IWillHoldTheLine.

For the brilliant children of great promise, whose programs have been eliminated and who mark time helping others while waiting for the challenges they need, #IWillHoldTheLine.

For the teens who fight their own minds daily just to stay alive; the teens with whom I've sat in hospital waiting rooms, padded rooms, awaiting verdicts from an overtaxed health care system, #IWillHoldTheLine.

For my colleagues, with whom I have laughed, cried, danced, exulted, raged and vented, #IWillHoldTheLine.

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