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Chilliwack parents asked to keep students home May 29

Teacher rally in Chilliwack in April. - Cornelia Naylor
Teacher rally in Chilliwack in April.
— image credit: Cornelia Naylor

Chilliwack parents have been asked to keep their school-aged children at home next Thursday as the teachers' union participates in a rotating strike.

Daycares, pre-schools, StrongStart Centres and other activities on local school grounds will also be cancelled for May 29, something that has perturbed parents who pay for private programs out of pocket.

"They are privately funded and paid for by us," Amanda Harrop told the Times Friday. Harrop pays for daycare for her two children, and the cancellation means she is forced to leave work for the day.

"I for one cannot afford to take the day off," she said.

In a letter issued to parents Friday, School District 33 superintendent Evelyn Novak said that while schools will be open under the supervision of administrators, teachers will not be present, the schools may be picketed and other union workers won't cross lines.

"For safety reasons we ask that parents keep all children home from classes on Thursday, May 29," Novak wrote. "We anticipate that CUPE staff will honour the teachers' picket line and that buses will not operate."

Novak was unavailable to comment on the closure of private programs at school sites Friday afternoon.

The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) announced on Tuesday that rotating strikes would be held around the province over four days, May 26, 27, 28 and 29.

While the Chilliwack school district's strike is scheduled for May 29, Abbotsford's is May 28 and Fraser-Cascade (district #78) is May 26. Mission's strike day is also May 26.

Schools in school district #93 (Conseil Scolaire Francophone) will be closed with others in their local communities, which means, in Chilliwack, École la Vérendrye will be closed May 29.

The BCTF first announced that the rotating strikes would not affect already scheduled extra-curricular and volunteer activities.

The BC Public School Employers' Association (BSPSEA), however, responded with a partial lockout and pay cuts, which will limit teachers' time in schools.

"We wanted to minimize the impact on students,” BCTF president Jim Iker said. “During rotating strikes, teachers would continue all volunteer activities four out of five days a week.”

Teachers are now prohibited from being at school more than 45 minutes before and after class time and are forbidden from working during recess or lunch hour. The government has also ordered all secondary teachers to be locked out June 25 and 26, and all teachers locked out June 27.

The BCTF says this means extra-curricular activities including clubs, drama, music, sports will be cancelled, graduation ceremonies will be impacted, and final exams for some senior secondary students will not be marked.

"None of these impacts would have occurred under the teachers’ job action plan," according to a BCTF press release issued Thursday.

But the government says this is false. In question-and-answer sheet posted on the Ministry of Education website, the government says teachers can continue with extracurricular activities, and they may attend graduation ceremonies, concerts, proms, awards ceremonies, sports events and other year-end celebrations outside of school hours.

"It is our opinion that the BCTF has purposely mischaracterized both the intent and the effect of the lockout," the statement said.

"They say voluntary activities can continue, so in one answer they have 'it can continue,' but in another answer it says we can't be on the work site," Iker said.

- with a file from the Vancouver Sun

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