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Still hope to save school year

Today (Friday) could be the last day of school for Okanagan students as a full scale strike is scheduled for Tuesday with schools closed on Monday for a teacher 'study day.' 

The BC Government and teachers have optimistically implied a settlement “could” be reached this weekend but if it is not, school is likely done for the year.

Superintendent for the Central Okanagan School District Hugh Gloster says he wants to make it clear that the school year is not over yet. He says they are clearly bargaining hard to try to bring a resolve to this.

“I have certainly sensed a new level of optimism and commitment from both sides to really get a deal,” says Gloster. “They are scheduled to bargain Friday, Saturday and Sunday and my understanding is that both sides are highly committed to this and are willing to put in whatever hours it will take.

So. I am still going to hold onto the notion that we could get a settlement by say Sunday night.

He also wants to emphasize that Monday's 'study session' will take place regardless of what happens this weekend at the bargaining table. Teachers will not be at school on Monday and they are asking parents to make alternative arrangements.

But, he says, there is hope doors could open on again on Tuesday.

“We could be back in classes on Tuesday and a lot of our contingency planning around things like government exams, invigilation, marking and so on will become a moot point because we will have our staff back to work.”

Regardless of what side of the teachers strike you are on, and it is a polarizing debate, students are caught in the middle and this school year is not ending the way it was planned.

Gloster says a number of year end trips and activities that were planned have been and will be cancelled.

“At every level in our system this is the time of year where you are typically trying to celebrate the successes of the year for both the students and staff. Trying to recognize that students are moving on from one level to another, staffs who are changing schools. Year end field trips, overnight camps those sorts of things and unfortunately some of those have been causalities of this labour dispute,” says Gloster.

“We know some parents have stepped in and tried to organize alternative activities but there are certainly a number that haven’t been able to go ahead.”

Grad ceremonies were a concern for many senior students and parents but Gloster says regardless of any strike action those ceremonies will definitively be happening.

“Only three of our graduation ceremonies (George Elliot, Central School and a special ceremony for students of aboriginal ancestry) have taken place so far. We still have four secondary school grad ceremonies still to come and we are definitely planning to go ahead with those ceremonies,” says Gloster.

“They are all taking place off site and we have a compliment of staff, volunteers and parent volunteers that will be there. The ceremonies will likely be missing a number of teachers who would normally be actively involved and certainly our teachers want to be at those grads but they are feeling that because of this labour dispute that is something they can not do.”

The BC Teachers Federation announced on Tuesday that teachers had voted 86 per cent in favour of launching a full-scale walkout after 16 months of contract negotiations.

On Wednesday evening it was further announced that a full scale walk out would begin Tuesday June 17 if a deal is not reached this weekend.

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