Three-day teacher strike to start Monday – UPDATE

Parents are being asked to keep their children home from school this coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ladysmith parents are being told not to send their children to school this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during strike action being taken by the B.C. Teacher’s Federation.

“Schools will be closed to students because the district does not have sufficient staff in schools to safely supervise students,” said Donna Reimer, SD68 communications director, in an e-mail. “If you do send your children to school, we will call to ask you to come pick them up.”

The school district had previously sent a letter home with students Thursday saying schools would be open during those three days, although no instruction would be provided.

School buses will not be operating on those days.

Schools are expected to reopen for students on Thurs., March 8.

Registration for French Immersion Kindergarten will go ahead as planned starting Monday morning. More details are available on the school district website.

If there is any change to this situation, the school district will inform local radio stations (WAVE 102.3 FM and WOLF 106.9 FM) and will post information on the school district website, as well as through Facebook and Twitter.

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) issued notice of the escalated job action March 1.

This step follows a province-wide vote conducted Tuesday and Wednesday in which 87 per cent of teachers voted “yes” to escalating job action from the limited “teach only” campaign that began last September.

In all, 32,209 teachers voted, and 27,946 agreed to the withdrawal of services.

The BCTF strike vote came after the provincial government tabled Bill 22 on Tuesday. The legislation is designed to suspend the current job action by teachers, set a “cooling off” period and appoint a mediator to facilitate bargaining.

BCTF president Susan Lambert noted that the 75-per-cent turnout and 87-per-cent yes vote demonstrate to the provincial government that “bullying legislation like Bill 22 will not fix a broken relationship.”

“Teachers take this step very reluctantly,” she said, noting the BCTF’s “teach only” job action was specifically designed to limit the impact on classrooms while still maintaining an effective voice. “We articulated our objectives as clearly and respectfully as we could, but unfortunately we were pleading to deaf ears. The bill tabled on Tuesday was a sign of the appalling disrespect for the profession of teaching, for students, and for public education in BC.”

Lambert acknowledged that the walkout will inconvenience parents but asked them to consider that conditions in classrooms have deteriorated over the past decade and will not improve unless teachers take a strong stand.

“Bill 22 means children have to wait another two years for any possible hope of guarantees on class size or any real funding increase for students with special needs,” she said.

Education Minister George Abbott expressed disappointment in the union’s decision to hold a three-day strike in a statement Thursday.

“A strike of this nature will significantly disrupt student learning and creates tremendous concern for parents and families,” he said.

Under the order from the Labour Relations Board (LRB), the BCTF is able to fully withdraw for three days, but the order is clear that schools are not to be picketed.