08/25/2014 06:53 EDT | Updated 10/25/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. teachers' strike: morale fades as school year looms

B.C. teachers were back on the picket lines Monday, many facing financial hardship with little confidence the dispute will be settled by the official start of the school year on Sept. 2.

In Burnaby, teacher Robert Sidley said that in 15 years of teaching, he has never felt so demoralized. He added that he will have to go talk to the bank soon, because the financial situation is so dire.

"I'm 48 years old," he told CBC News. "How does that make me feel? It makes me feel like a child. If this strike continues to the end of September, it is costing me personally $10,000."

'An exercise in frustration'

Alpha Secondary School counsellor Lorraine Hodgson says it's been a really challenging time, especially for her colleagues with young children of their own.

"It's been an exercise in frustration," she said. " Because I think [as teachers] we value communication, we value talking. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be happening."

Sheila Waller is already in debt.

"I am actually on my way to the bank for my third line of credit this summer," she said.

Even so, the teachers say, the dispute is less about salaries and more about class size and composition — where the two sides remain hundreds of millions of dollars apart

"We hear a lot of talk about the special needs kids," said Waller, who teaches an alternative program at Lochdale Elementary. "But every child suffers, because the gifted children are not able to get what they need, the typical children aren't able to get what they need, and certainly the special needs kids are certainly not getting the support they need.

"And it's so sad because I know the money is there. The money is there."

'You go home heartbroken'

Maria Jacome, picketing outside Lochdale Elementary said that last year, 11 of the 22 kids in her Grade 2 class had special needs, but only two had a designation that qualified them for support, leaving her unable to meet everyone's needs in the class.

"You go home heartbroken because you want to do more," she said. "If we had less kids with such high needs in each class, then it would be more manageable."

Meanwhile, Monday afternoon, a group of parents gathered at the legislature to deliver a box of apples and an 11,000-name petition demanding government reach a settlement with teachers.

The group, Protect Public Education Now, feels the government has not been negotiating in good faith and says B.C. has a budget surplus and so can afford to increase spending on education.  

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