Teachers in Mission are hoping they will have a new contract soon.
The new school year is suppose to start next week, but preparations for opening day have not been made as the BCTF and the provincial government continue to negotiate a new contract for the B.C. teachers.
“Everybody is feeling the strike, some more than others,” said elementary school teacher Bonnie Peters, who was picketing outside Albert McMahon school this week. “My husband is working a lot of overtime to try to pay our bills.”
There are some teachers who are single parents and who are the sole bread winners in their family, she added. “Teachers are huge donators in the community, always involved with a cause or a needy family. Now we’re the ones in need.”
Mission Teachers’ Union president Mark Bradshaw said he is disappointed a contract has not been negotiated after 18 months.
“Teachers know unless they take a stand, things will not improve in B.C.,” said Bradshaw, who pointed to class sizes and funding per student as key issues.
“We’re sorry for inconveniencing anybody. I’m sure some parents are upset, but others realize what we’re fighting for.”
Teachers began rotating strikes in May and stepped up to a full-scale strike in June.
In July, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher said the two sides were too far apart for mediation.
The province said the demand from teachers on benefits, class sizes, and special needs support are unaffordable. Finance Minister Mike De Jong has said the government will not impose a settlement.
“As an individual trustee, it’s disappointing for me they haven’t reached a point where at least a mediator can step in,” said Mission school board chair Edie Heinrichs, who is prepared to look after her nine-year-old granddaughter if a settlement is not reached.
Parents Amelia Dempster and Donna Gibson have young kids scheduled to start kindergarden this year.
The children are excited to begin school and the parents are eager establish a routine, but nobody is certain when schools will open.
It’s difficult to explain to them why they’re not going to school, said Dempster, who is doubtful an agreement between the teachers union and the province will be reached this week.
A decision on whether of not schools will be opened on Sept. 2 as planned is expected today (Aug. 29).
Gibson has plans to take her family camping if schools are not in session next week.
Katy Brookes, who has a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, said she’s fortunate she’s a stay-at-home parent and will not have to look for alternate day care options. She has offered to help out her friends who need care for their kids.
“I just don’t want (the strike) to go on so long that it affects Christmas break,” said Brookes.
To help parents struggling with child care options, Mission Leisure Centre is running Camp Wanarok from Sept. 2-12 for children ages five to 12.
There is a different camp theme each day and parents can sign their children up for one day or all nine sessions. Camp runs from 8:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Each session is $36.
If the teachers strike is over before the Camp Wanarok ends, the remaining camps will be cancelled and refunds will be given. However, if the strike continues past Sept. 12, additional camps will be offered.
For more information about Camp Wanarok, visit mission.ca/leisure or call 604-820-5350.