North Island schools to open Monday

Teachers, government end strike with approval of six-year contract.

PORT HARDY—North Island public school students will be back in class Monday morning, School District 85 Superintendent Scott Benwell announced in a letter to parents this week.

The announcement came as members of the BC Teachers’ Federation voted to ratify a tentative contract with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association Thursday, ending a strike that began in mid-June.

“School District 85 is pleased that the teachers and the government have reached a tentative agreement,” Benwell wrote. “We thank everyone for their extraordinary patience during a difficult time for all.”

Elementary and secondary schools will reopen Monday, Sept. 22, with an abbreviated 10 a.m.-noon schedule. The first full day of classes will be Tuesday, Sept. 23.

School buses on all routes will run on the same schedules they had in place when the strike commenced last June. Routes are posted on the district’s website at www.sd85.bc.ca under “Transportation Services”.

Individual school administrators sent out letters to families of students enrolled, detailing Monday’s itinerary in their buildings. For the secondary schools, that includes attending homeroom, receiving schedules and locker assignments and attending a mini-rotation of classes.

At elementary schools, students will gather in the gymnasium before students proceed to their classrooms.

Kindergarden students will have an abbreviated, gradual entry before full-day attendance is in place Thursday, Sept. 25, the district said. Parents are being contacted by the schools to determine specific start dates for their students.

The ministry has notified superintendents that the school year will not be extended to make up the the days lost to the strike.

Three weeks of instruction time have been lost since the scheduled beginning of the school year Sept. 2, in addition to the two weeks at the end of June.

The teachers’ union and the government reached a tentative agreement on a six-year contract early Tuesday morning, through the efforts of mediator Vince Ready. Local union memberships held their ratification votes Thursday, with 86 per cent voting to approve the agreement. Approximately 75 per cent of teachers voted on the deal.

At the same time, school trustee boards across the province also voted to approve the contract, which provides for a 7.25 per cent pay raise, improved benefits and a fund to hire hundreds of new teachers province-wide.

“We can now focus on the path forward,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender said following the ratification vote Thursday evening. “This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students — to enhance their education experience and to support their achievements.”

A government appeal of a court ruling upholding the teachers’ right to negotiate class size and composition is still before the courts, and those issues could still be brought back to the table for negotiation depending on the outcome of the case.

A controversial compensation fund for parents of students 12 and under, announced by Fassbender in the final days of summer, will pay out $40 per lost student day to those families. One-time payments are expected to be sent out in October to eligible parents who registered at bcparentinfo.ca.

With files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press.

 

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