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Parent Advisory Councils hold emergency meeting as teachers' strike continues

With two weeks until school set to begin, mediation a possibility



As negotiations continue between the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the British Columbia Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA), representatives of parents from across the province met in Richmond last weekend for an emergency B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) meeting.

"The mood was excellent, and the meeting was very productive as a start," said Margot Murdoch, co-chair of the District Parent Advisory Council for Sea to Sky.

"We really focused on what we want right now - in the next week or two - and then really talked a lot about what we'd like to see in the future."

What parents want right now, Murdoch said, is for their children to be back in the classroom come Sept. 2.

"We really do want our kids to return to a really safe, respectful environment, regardless of how the bargaining goes," she said.

"We don't want them to continue bargaining and keeping the kids out of school."

There's a hope amongst members of the BCCPAC that even if a settlement can't be reached in time, the government will lift its lockout and the teachers will suspend their strike while bargaining continues, Murdoch said.

The BCCPAC is also calling for immediate improvements to classroom resources that support students.

In a press release, the BCCPAC suggested the creation of a Classroom Resources Fund that would be protected from other cost pressures.

Distribution of the fund would be initiated by teachers at each school in consultation and collaboration with students, parents and other staff, the release said.

Using this method would better direct classroom resources to where they are needed most.

"What we were saying is negotiate the wages and the benefits and get them back in school, and then let's look at the funding model and maybe revamp it, so that teachers feel good about it, parents feel good about it, and the province can afford it," Murdoch said.

Meanwhile, mediation remains a possibility as negotiations continue.

Last week, the BCTF and BCPSEA issued a joint statement saying that both parties have been in talks with mediator Vince Ready, who will now monitor the situation.

Ready will be available to "commence full mediation when he believes it will be productive," the statement said.

Representatives of the BCTF will meet in Kamloops on Friday to make decisions concerning the group's bargaining strategy, said Carl Walker, president of the Sea to Sky Teachers' Association.

"It is very encouraging that Vince Ready has agreed to act as a mediator," Walker said in an email.

"We remain committed to negotiate a collective agreement before September 2nd and we will continue to take actions to achieve this goal."

Check back with Pique for updates in the coming weeks.