With only one week to go before the start of scheduled classes in the 2014-15 school year, there has been little progress made between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government.
This has led to some decreased optimism along the picket lines and additional support being offered by some learning centres in the Okanagan.
Evan Orloff is the Vice President of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association, and says teachers are fed up and want to get back in the classroom.
“We want to be back in school. We want the bargaining team from the government to sit down. They say they’re available twenty-four seven, but they actually haven’t been available all summer,” notes Orloff.
“And that’s not bargaining. We need to sit down and we need to get a fair deal.”
The lack of progress made by either side has convinced a few learning centres in Kelowna to begin offering extra help and extended services to those families in need.
Mind Over Learning is a tutoring centre for students with learning disabilities, and they’ve expanded a special program for students affected by the strike, says Astrid Kostaschuk.
“We’re concerned about those kids because we specialize in kids with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, fetal alcohol syndrome – all of those hardcore learning difficulties,” she explains.
The part time program – expected to last three hours per day – will focus on language and math skills for students in grades 1-12. The program has room for 20 students and will run throughout the duration of the strike, to be looked at on a week-to-week basis.
“We don’t know when this strike will be over, so we don’t want to lock anybody into any obligation, especially a financial one,” notes Kostaschuk.
Willowstone Academy has also opened up extra childcare spaces in anticipation of a prolonged strike that could drag into September.
“We have the space. We have the staff. We love to serve our community. Our hope is that we can help relieve some stress for families in the event that school does not resume in September,” says Heather Sandager, the school’s Admission Advisor who points out they had 12 spots late last week, of which almost half have already been filled.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot more traffic this summer. The last couple weeks before school tends to be chaotic no matter what, but its definitely more traffic than we’ve seen in years past.”
That is also true at Aberdeen Hall Preparatory School, where Chris Grieve says their admissions over the summer have been higher than usual.
“We have enrolled a number of new students at all levels, particularly grade 12,” he says.
“I think students just want to make sure that their year is not disrupted and their university preparations and admissions go as smoothly as possible."
Grieve says that depending on how long the strike lasts, they will consider accepting some late entrants to the school year, but also says he would like to see both sides in the strike reach some common ground.
“We hope they come to an agreement that satisfies both parties and that they do start up school. We want them to settle. I think its just better for everyone if everybody is going to school.”