Thursday, September 18th15.6°C
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Letter to parents

From SD23:

Dear Parents and Guardians:    

Thank you for the patience that you have shown as we have waited for a resolve to the provincial labour dispute. It now appears that we are very close to being able to open our schools. The purpose of this letter is to give you details to help you plan for the immediate future.

As has been reported in the media, the membership of the BC Teachers' Federation will be reviewing the terms of the tentative agreement and holding a ratification vote on Thursday, September 18th. All sixty Boards of Education have been given until 3 p.m. on Friday, September 19th to go through the same process.

If the parties vote in favor of ratifying the terms of the agreement, then we will be opening our schools on Monday, September 22nd. The first day of the school year will follow the normal opening day procedures with students attending for a half day. (Please note that Kelowna Secondary Schools will be operating for a full day on the first day of the year, and will be scheduling their half day on Wednesday, September 24th.) This will give schools the opportunity to conduct enrolment counts and to adjust classes and staffing levels.

Schools will post their opening day start and end times on their websites by the end of this week. Buses will be operating on Monday, September 22nd to align with the adjusted bell schedules. For information about bus routes, please refer to the School Bus Transportation link on the District's website.

The Ministry of Education confirmed the following information with Superintendents today:

  1. There are no plans to extend or add instructional days this year. It is their expectation that school districts will be able to deliver their educational programs and meet all learning outcomes in the curriculum within the remaining school calendar timeframe.
  2. For secondary courses operating on a semester system, school districts have the option to equalize the length of the semesters and the Ministry of Education will provide a second set of provincial examination dates at the beginning of February to accommodate this option. The remainder of the 2014/2015 provincial exam schedule will stay the same.

The impact of these Ministry decisions for the Central Okanagan School District includes:

  • The District Calendar that was approved at the end of February, 2014 and is posted on our website, remains in effect for the balance of the year. No changes are being made to holiday periods or other days when schools will not be in session.
  • Many schools may wish to make adjustments to their individual school calendars that were published at the end of March, 2014. It is anticipated that there may need to be changes made to the dates for each term, as well as to the dates for report cards and parent-teacher interviews. If this is the case, school administrators will consult with their parents, staff and community regarding proposed changes.
  • Elementary schools will be contacting the parents of their Kindergarten students with information about the plan for the 'gradual entry' of these students.
  • Secondary schools will be adjusting the dates for the end of the first and the beginning of the second semesters to balance instructional time and to align with the new examination dates in February, 2015.

Further updates will be provided as new information is available. In the interim, please continue to consult the District's website, as well as the appropriate school websites. 

Parents will also be getting Robo-Calls with the information.



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Parents get Robo-Calls

Although we do not 'officially' know school is back on, parents in the Okanagan are receiving some promising calls.

School District 23 Superintendent Hugh Gloster says 'robo-calls' or automated calls have started going out to parents letting them know that, pending the ratification of the teachers contract, kids will be back at school Monday.

“We have received direction from the Ministry of Education that the expectation is, assuming the ratification vote by the BCTF is in the affirmative and there are no other issues, that we anticipate at this point that we would run our schools for a half day starting on Monday,” says Gloster.

He says there will be an adjusted 'bell schedule' for Monday for the half day with the expectation they will be fully operational again on Tuesday.

According to Gloster, students at middle and secondary schools can expect Monday to be much like the first day of school any other year. There will be a short rotation schedule to get students oriented with their classes and their school.

At the elementary school level he says students will meet with their teacher or teachers and do a similar model where they will start to get oriented with their classroom and what they will be learning that year.

Although it may appear to be putting the cart before the horse, Gloster says parents wanted to be able to start preparing for next week.

“It is all pending the ratification vote of course but, we we're also getting overwhelmed by parent's requests wanting to know what the plan is. So, we wanted to share the plan.”

Gloster is also working on a detailed letter to parents explaining what they can expect for the first week back at school. The letter will be sent to all parents, media and posted on the district website later this evening.

The BCTF is recommending teachers vote yes on the new contract.

Gloster does say though that if the ratification vote did not get approved, the district will get direction from the Ministry on a different plan which would then be provided to parents.

The 60 Boards of Education around the province must also ratify the new contract.

Those ratification votes must take place by 3 p.m. Friday.



Schools ready to welcome kids

As teachers get ready to vote on a tentative agreement Thursday to end their lengthy strike schools in the Central Okanagan are ready to accept students.

School District 23 Superintendent, Hugh Gloster, says schools in the district could open Friday if that is deemed the course of action if teachers vote to ratify the agreement.

Ideally though, a Monday opening would be more beneficial.

"Could we open Friday? Quite frankly we probably could, but we would need enough notice to call out everything from our bus drivers to our custodians, letting our parent and student community know and our teachers are all informed," says Gloster.

"I sent a communique over to our colleagues at the COTA office and we've agreed that once we have more information about the deal and the ratification vote we'll meet to talk about the logistics around school opening."

There are some issues in a few school such as George Elliott where a new annex to house grade 7s may need a bit more work - OKM where construction work is going on and the district's newest school, Mar Jok where some technology issues still need to be addressed.

Gloster says none of those issues should stop those schools from opening.

Regardless of when the school year begins, Gloster says the first day of school will be a tradition first day, meaning students will attend class for just a half day.

"Part of the rationale is we have absolutely no idea how many people have moved in over the summer and have not yet shown up," says Gloster.

"And, we have no idea how many people have moved away or, being pragmatic, we also recognize some have made alternate choices. We want to get the schools open and count the numbers which gives us a chance to get on the phone and phone the people who are missing."

Gloster says it will give the district a chance to balance classes and hire or adjust staff as needed.

Other issues such as the makeup of the school calendar and who will ultimately pay for the increase in teacher salaries will be determined over the coming days.



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School conference still in limbo

School District 23 is appealing to the compassionate side of teachers union leader, Jim Iker.

The district has sent a letter to Iker asking for permission to use Kelowna Secondary School and some district buses for the Canadian Student Leadership Conference, slated to be held in Kelowna starting next Tuesday.

The conference will bring together some 900 students and councillors from all over the country.

The district had planned to use KSS for the conference but now finds itself looking at alternate, expensive sites.

To date, the district has not heard back from Iker.

"We haven't heard from Mr. Iker directly but we have heard he has issued a statement to the Canadian Federation of Teachers that the conference is behind picket lines," says SD23 Secretary/Treasurer, Larry Paul.

Paul says if the answer is no they do have contingency plans in place to move the conference off-site, however, if the answer is yes they would like to know sooner rather than later.

"We can turn it back into KSS with 48 hours notice but the issue is trying to make sure we have all those contingencies in place and the closer we get the more obligated we are to those contingencies," says Paul.

"Even if we pull out we may have to pay for certain aspects of them."

The conference runs from Tuesday through Saturday of next week.



Sports persevere through strike

While all school and extra-curricular activities remain dark in the province due to the on-going teachers strike, some high school sports are finding a way to carry on.

Several fall sports including football, volleyball, boys soccer, field hockey, cross country and aquatics were all scheduled to begin at the start of the school year.

In the Central Okanagan, high school football teams at Rutland, KSS and Mount Boucherie are continuing to practice and play under the eye of volunteer coaches.

No teachers are involved.

Bob Chamberlain is a volunteer coach for the KSS owls. He said the biggest thing he's noticed is the whole program just isn't as intense as it used to be. 

"Typically in regular season they leave school and go to practice, so they've been focused all day. Now coming from home, we've been having to fire them up," he said. "I don't think they're as focused as they have been in the past.

Also, fewer students are showing up for practice and games, which Owls' wide receiver Ryan Samuelson blames on not seeing one another in class.

"The strike took a lot of people out of going to football because at school you see your friends and you go out. Not able to do that now," he said. "There would be at least 5 to 10 more guys out if the strike wasn't on."

"It would be nice if they got something settled and took us out of the middle of it."

Both Mount Boucherie and KSS traveled to the coast last weekend for scheduled exhibition games.

This past Friday saw the first games of the held at the Apple Bowl.

Jay Fujimura is a football coach and ​teacher from Abbotsford Senior Secondary. His boys travelled to Kelowna to play the KSS Owls and says the support from the community has played a huge role in being able to keep running the team.

"I'm doing it because when I got to this school I worked with them (players in grade 12) from the beginning and they've worked hard to get to this point. It wouldn't be fair for them not to get an opportunity in their last year to be able to play football," he said. 

"High school is often more than just classroom and classes and courses," he said. "It's memories, friendships, just being part of something, part of a community, a team, a bunch of guys that care about you. Maybe you get washed out in school but on the football team you help support and you mean something." 

BC School Sports, which oversees all high school sports in the province, issued a statement earlier this week saying they are proceeding with the planned fall zone and championship schedules in all sports.

However, in order to participate, teams are required to receive permission from their respective schools and school districts.

School districts in Surrey and Prince George have both shut down their athletic programs.

One coach told Castanet it was a tough decision, saying while they support the teachers, they also support the kids, which is why they got into coaching in the first place.

Other sports programs are also continuing at some, but not all district schools.

"I am aware of a bit of volleyball, a bit of soccer and field hockey - those are typical fall sports," says Gloster.

"In a few cases there are teachers who have decided that this is a voluntary activity, it's not part of their teaching duty and they are carrying on with some coaching. In most cases, it's parents and community members who are choosing to support those teams and keep those kids engaged."



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