Job action alters school holiday concerts

Events moved to school-based assemblies during instructional hours

Parents wishing to see their youngsters perform in the annual school holiday concerts on the North Island will need to block off time a bit earlier in the day than they’re accustomed to.

Evening concerts, a tradition at several local schools, will not take place this year, due largely to the job action under way by members of the Vancouver Island North Teachers Association.

Instead, schools will host “Christmas assemblies” and other events during the day, in the school buildings.

“Usually it’s in the evening, in the big gym,” Gail Henderson, acting principal of Sea View Elementary School in Port Alice, said of her school’s annual Coffee House concert. “This year, it’s during the day, in the smaller room.”

Similar events will take place at Cheslakees Elementary in Port McNeill, next Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., and at Sunset Elementary in Port McNeill, Wednesday at 1 p.m.

In recent years, Sunset has held an evening concert featuring song and/or skit numbers from each classroom. This season, Sunset students will perform a musical play written by assistant principal Dan Baker, the school’s music teacher.

“We’re having a Christmas assembly,” said Rena Sweeney, principal at Sunset. “We’ll have it during the day; it will fall within the job action.”

Phase 1 of the teachers’ job action is designed to place pressure on negotiators for the B.C.  Public School Employers’ Association as the groups attempt to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Under the job action, teachers continue with classroom instruction of students, but have withheld administrative functions and many after-school functions they previously participated in.

For most of the school year the limited strike has had little impact on parents of students. But first-term report cards were released recently with letter grades omitted, and the change in holiday pageants could potentially affect families with daytime work schedules who might otherwise have attended.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of response from people on reporting (grades), because the lines of communication between teachers and parents remains open,” said Fred Robertson, VINTA president. “Teachers are certainly letting parents know if there are any issues with their children. To our point, those lines of communication are important.”

Robertson added teachers are still taking part in extracurricular activities, including daytime, class field trips. But he was not certain what impact the job action might have when traditional multi-day trips roll around in spring, such as those to Camp Homewood or, for Sunset’s Grade 7 students, to Victoria for a week.

“One of the things we’re not doing is collecting any money for those sorts of things,” Robertson admitted. “But administrators here, when it is pertinent to those trips, have been collecting money. I’m not aware of any plans to cancel the trips.”

As for the holiday concerts, administrators are downplaying the impact of the job action and say they have worked with the teachers to provide a fun event for the students.

“The teachers here have been preparing in their classrooms,” said Henderson. “They’re all involved; it’s really just a change of time and location.”

 

 

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