Several school district activities and sports have been cancelled since the B.C. Teachers Federation [BCTF]’s decision to withdraw from extracurricular activities April 23. But the impact in Ladysmith remains to be seen, as both teachers and parents scramble to determine which activities will go on as planned.
“Parents are trying very hard to see if there’s alternate ways to offer things that they think are important for the kids. Sometimes something can be worked out, and sometimes it can’t,” said Donna Reimer, School District 68 spokeswoman. “The confusion’s coming from several ends because teachers too are trying to figure out what things they can do and can’t do.”
Because extracurricular sports require teacher sponsorship, many sports-related events have had to be canceled. Special school trips, such as overnight ventures that require a school district employee presence, are also being canceled as school principals struggle to fill in the gaps.
“It’s really unfortunate but they can’t expect their principal to do everything, and there’s going to be some things that aren’t going to be possible,” Reimer said. “The bottom line is we have to ensure student safety, and we have to ensure that we have appropriate supervision.”
Ladysmith Intermediate School [LIS] parent Carolyn Wilson said the school’s year-end field trip to the waterslide park has been cancelled as well.
“My daughter’s quite upset about that,” she said.
However, it is not all doom and gloom, as parents pitch in extra effort to keep certain events running. Because of this, the fate of certain extracurricular activities will vary from school to school.
The LIS Grade 7 grad, which includes a ceremony at Transfer Beach and following dance, will continue as planned, as well as the LSS grad, prom and awards night, Reimer said. Ecole Davis Road Elementary’s Grade 7 grad will go on as well.
“They [LSS] are going to be able to go ahead with their grad and their prom and their awards nights; which all happen together — that’s a bit unique in the district for that kind of event,” said Reimer.
LSS Parent Advisory Council [PAC] chair Richard Hill said he has not been hearing much reaction from parents if there is any to be had. During a PAC meeting regarding the withdrawal of extracurricular activities, only eight people showed up, he said.
“Considering the turnout was so low, either the news hadn’t sunk in, or parents were already prepared for this type of action,” he said. “I think the overall mood at the school is so positive, it hasn’t manifested itself as a negative confrontation in any way.
“There will be consequences, but as far as a loud voice from parents, I can’t say that I got one … the situation will become more apparent as time progresses.”
Karen Fediuk, PAC chair of Ecole Davis Road Elementary [EDR], said she is still trying to figure out how the job action will affect her school.
“I think we’re probably all more concerned with the education system than the teacher’s job action, and I think parents overall are frustrated by the class size or the perceived lack of enough assistance in the classrooms,” she said.
In EDR’s case, there is also frustration over the condition of the facilities, Fediuk said.
“Schools seem to be short-changed in terms of teaching supplies and staff — it’s minimal, and the structure of the facilities are old,” she said. “So it’s hard for us to hear that the minister of education is refusing to acknowledge, in some ways, some of the teachers’ concerns.”
In regards to the most recent job action, Fediuk said it is important for parents to consider how much work teachers do on a volunteer basis and how much should be required of them.
“We have to acknowledge that they do a lot for free,” she said.
Wilson said she feels torn by the job action, as she has a child that requires additional help at school.
“I know she doesn’t get it, and I know that’s a lot of what the teachers are fighting for,” she said. “But then I’m also on the other side where this has been a really tough year because there’s been so much confusion and upheaval and no one really knows what’s going on.”