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Chilliwack daycare owner frustrated school district forced her to close

Chilliwack middle school teachers Ada Koppejan (left) and Tracy Morford walk the picket line during the rotating strike Tuesday. - Paul J. Henderson
Chilliwack middle school teachers Ada Koppejan (left) and Tracy Morford walk the picket line during the rotating strike Tuesday.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

If parents and students feel caught in the middle of the current teachers’ dispute, parents of non-school-aged kids who attend daycares and preschools that happen to be on school property are collateral damage.

“I’ve got parents that are just irate about tomorrow,” Kathy Antonio told the Times Monday.

Antonio owns A is For Apple Daycare Centre, which operates two locations, one inside McCammon traditional elementary school.

In a letter sent home May 23 to School District 33 parents, superintendent Evelyn Novak asked that children be kept home from classes during rotating strike days, and she added that all non-school district activities—daycares, pre-schools—were cancelled for May 29.

This caused confusion and frustration for parents who pay out of pocket for the private, non-school district programs.

“They are privately funded and paid for by us,” parent Amanda Harrop told the Times. “I, for one, cannot afford to take the day off.”

Antonio ruffled feathers at School District 33 head office when she actually remained open on May 29, the day Chilliwack teachers were on strike.

Antonio heard she was supposed to close, but then says someone at the district told her to consult with the principal and the Chilliwack Teachers Association (CTA).

“The CTA message said ‘Give us the times open and the names of your staff and what programs are running and we won’t interfere with parents crossing the picket line,’” she said.

Out of respect for teachers, she cancelled her out-of-school program but she was open on May 29 for preschool and daycare.

Then she got a visit from director of instruction Kirk Savage wondering why she defied the school district order.

“I said if I was paying rent at any other building, say BC Biomed, and they went on strike, I would still be able to operate.”

Novak told the Times via email that the board recognizes the strike action is impacting families, but the board made a “difficult decision” to cancel non-district use of sites.

“The rental agreements require regular cleaning and maintenance of our sites, including during the summer months,” Novak said. “During strike action there would be no caretaking or maintenance staff to ensure security of the building or to ensure the level of care and cleanliness of the facility required, which is an important consideration and responsibility.”

CUPE maintenance staff who clean the classrooms are on the picket lines in support of teachers.

Antonio calls that a “lame excuse” since custodians do virtually nothing in her room.

“We clean our own classrooms,” she said, adding that the daycare operates through the summer with no maintenance help at all.

“The only thing maintenance does is take out our garbage, and in summer we do that too.”

Novak said another consideration was avoiding potential conflict between picketers and those entering the schools.

Antonio said she was “really frustrated” with being ordered to close on day two of the rotating strike Tuesday because of the situation some of her parents are in.

“Most of our parents are single parents working hourly wages,” she said. “If they don’t go in, they lose a day’s pay. Some of the parents are worried that they are going to lose their jobs if they don’t go in.

“I asked them if they ever considered that some of the parents in low income jobs are going to have to leave their children unattended or with siblings too young to babysit.”

Antonio said some of her employees are salaried but three are on hourly wages so they lose a day of pay as well.

No further strike days have been yet planned by the BCTF, but the government has ordered all secondary teachers to be locked out June 25 and 26, and all teachers locked out on June 27.

“The concerns of operators and parents have been noted and this decision will be re-visited,” Novak said.

 

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