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Students side with teachers

They just want a fair deal.

Grade 12 students Vanessa Bobbitt and Kolby Zinger-Harris have seen three province-wide teacher walk-outs in the past 10 years, and while they might be at the end of the secondary education the fourth and latest set of rotating strikes will be the last straw.

They are tired of being caught in the middle and they fear for future generations of students if no deal can be reached.

“I think it is a really decisive battle between the teachers and the government,” says KSS student Zinger-Harris. “I think there is a lot more to it than just wage increases and that kind of thing. It is really a fight for the students in a lot of ways. Students are being affected now and they also will be down the road.”

For Bobbitt she has already been accepted into Okanagan College for the fall, but is concerned that if the rotating strikes continue it could affect provincial exams, which, if she fails will in turn affect her acceptance into post secondary school.

“That is really difficult to miss classes right before the finals. We are working extra hard but it’s hard when we can’t go in at lunch time and ask for help because of the lock out, so we have to learn on our own time and that is tough.”

Bobbitt, like many students, is siding with her educators.

“Honestly, everything they are asking for is reasonable,” she says. “I know a lot of people are focusing on that they are asking for more money, but there is also more. They are asking for better class composition, which affects us as students as well.”

The KSS senior is sick of being placed in over crowded classrooms. Both she and Zinger-Harris know how detrimental class composition can be and this fight should be about what’s best for their future.

“If you are not very assertive about your learning (you could lose out), and sometimes the teachers are just too busy to keep up with you. You get marked assignments back late when it’s not very helpful to see your mark anymore,” explains Zinger-Harris. “So, big classes do really make it difficult for students and for teachers as well.”

There also seems to be a lot of confusion circling the job action from both teachers and students.

Bobbitt says teachers were unable to attend a grad meeting on Sunday evening, and says it’s unclear if teachers can attend extra-curricular activities or field trips that are off of school property during the lock out.

Zinger-Harris says both his band concerts were cancelled this week due to the strike.

KSS teacher Lea Ivanitz, says she and her co-workers have a lot of questions.

“We are not allowed to attend because we may not be covered by insurance, by WCB. So people are just hesitant to do anything outside of school, especially because we are not supposed to. We are locked out.”

In a letter to Castanet provided by the government from the BC Public School Employers Association the following was stated:

No. Teachers are free to participate in all extracurricular activities, including on school property. There is nothing in the lockout that prevents BCTF members from continuing to participate in such activities as graduation, sports, and awards events. If teachers choose not to participate in such activities, they do so as a result of their own decision.

Some students, in response to the job action, will be staging a province wide walk-out on Wednesday at 9 a.m., however Bobbitt and Zinger-Harris won’t be attending, and they don’t know many others in the Okanagan who will.

“People need to be educated about this student strike. We don’t need to miss more classes, that is kind of the whole point with the strike,” says Bobbitt. “We don’t want them (students) to use it as an excuse to walk out of class either.”

It’s unclear if the rotating strikes will continue next week as the Labour Relations Board must decide if the government can dock teacher’s pay 10 percent in response to the first round of strikes that started on May 26.

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