Students express concern

Student frustration is growing as the teacher’s strike continues to drag on.

Student frustration is growing as the teacher’s strike continues to drag on.

A recent letter from Trafalgar Middle School students to parents brought some of the affects to light.

“Due to the current job action and budget costs, field trips are very unlikely to happen… according to the job action, right now teachers are not permitted to help fundraise and organize non-educational field trips,” wrote the middle school students in their letter, adding that a recent field trip fundraiser had not met their needs.

“Considering the job action doesn’t affect our day to day lives at school, no one is complaining, but we the students would like to put a stop to it.”

The students are asking parents to email Minister of Education George Abbott to express their concerns as “voting citizens.”

The letter comes after six months of reduced teacher services at BC schools and at juncture where the Ministry of Education has appointed a fact finder to determine whether it’s possible for the two parties to come to a voluntary settlement.

“We’re waiting to see,” said Kootenay Lake School District superintendant Jeff Jones of the latest development.

“Trevor Hughes — the fact finder appointed by the ministry — must submit a report by February 23. What we’ll then know is if in his opinion there is the possibility of a conclusion to this… then we’ll look to some recommendations as to what the resolution might be.”

Jones said one of the main stumbling blocks at the bargaining table is the call for a wage increase over three years when other sector unions have agreed to deals that do not increase cost due to a net-zero mandate currently in the province.

Another of the BC Teachers Federation’s priorities in the job action is to improve teaching and learning conditions such as class size, learning specialist ratios and time for class preparation.

Despite the job action, Jones said students haven’t been impacted, but could some time down the road if it continues.

“The labour relations board has said that there are some services that aren’t considered essential, so the teachers have removed themselves from many of those services,” he said.

“The essential services are ones that they must perform and those are that they are teaching in the classrooms and that they are ensuring that our schools are still safe learning environments.”

Teachers are not attending staff meetings, collaborating with other teachers or administration staff, or reporting on student progress.

Jones said that with the teachers pulling back their services, many administrators have stepped up to perform a number of the services typically done by teachers.

“Principals and vice-principals have had non-stop supervision duties since the beginning of the school year,” he said, adding that many of them are not able to get to some of the work that they would have been doing to support the students

“It’s having a significant impact. Our administrators are sick more often because they’re just absolutely exhausted, we notice that their stress levels are higher, it’s making it difficult to do the work that they would normally be doing because they’ve taken up this.”

Jones said the administrators are also rescuing activities for students that were supervised by teachers in the past, but foresees that they won’t be able to do so for much longer.

“The district recognizes that teachers are working hard to teach on a daily basis in our classes, this isn’t about teacher bashing… Our teachers are doing good work and they’re focused on the work that they’re doing, but they have removed some services and it will have an impact on students over time,” said Jones.

“We are doing the very best we can in this district and parents should know that when their children are at school, they are in a safe learning environment and that we are continuing to teach children.”

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