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Parents feel the frustration as tentative school year approaches

Decision on school openings to come by Friday

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Less than one week out from the start of the 2014/15 school year, Whistler parents are left waiting for word of what comes next.

"I think the parents are really wondering sort of what's going on, and is there going to be any action by the end of this week that will ensure that we'll be back in school on Tuesday (Sept.2)," said Melanie Jones, chair of the Parent Advisory Council for Myrtle Philip Community School.

"We've got no real word. We haven't heard anything of whether that's going to happen or not."

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, BC Teachers Federation president Jim Iker and Minister of Education Peter Fassbender met in Victoria in an attempt to reach a settlement before school is scheduled to start on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Details of the meeting were not available before Pique went to press.

Last week, Sea to Sky School District superintendent Lisa McCullough said a decision on school openings would come Friday, Aug, 29.

The decision will be communicated through email and on the district's website.

The last-minute decision is designed to give teachers and the government the maximum amount of bargaining time, but leaves parents with little time for preparation should schools open on Tuesday.

"That does put us in a little bit of a bind," said Whistler parent Lee Schwartz.

"I mean, we would have the weekend to get prepared and arrive at school on time, but it would be nice to know exactly what's happening."

With the summer behind them and little movement on either side of the debate, Schwartz said the mood among parents is mixed.

"Some parents are siding more with the government and saying if the teachers get everything that they're asking for then what's going to happen when the nurses or other unions come due to negotiate their contracts?" Schwartz said.

"And then other parents believe that the teachers need to fight for smaller class sizes and better conditions for our children."

One thing most parents agree on is a general sense of frustration with the ongoing stalemate.

"I just wish that they would be able to compromise. Come to some sort of conclusion for the sake of the children," said Whistler parent Cyndi Bridges.

"What is that teaching — and especially the children — that they can't compromise? They're not really willing to compromise at any point and the students seem to be the ones caught."

Some B.C. parents have taken to Facebook and other social media in an attempt to organize peaceful protests in the events of a continued stalemate.

Should any kind of settlement be reached before Friday, schools in the district will be ready to welcome back students, McCullough said.

"From a physical perspective, our schools are ready. Our custodians have done a great job over the summer, our clerical staff has our schools ready for all of the technical pieces of the office work, and our principals and vice principals... are working on timetables and student schedules," she said.

"Our team is very anxious to get our kids back and our teachers back."

At a BC Teachers Federation leadership meeting last week in Kamloops, union president Jim Iker said the BCTF is ready to enter full-scale mediation as soon as the province will oblige.

Mediator Vince Ready has made himself available to the parties, but maintains that the two sides are still too far apart for mediation.

On Monday, parents delivered a petition with 11,000 signatures to the B.C. Legislature calling on the B.C. government to say yes to mediation with no pre-conditions.

Teachers returned to the picket lines in Whistler on Wednesday.

Should no settlement be reached, Whistler Blackcomb will be offering two programs as options for childcare for children aged 5 to 12.

The WB DFX program will run Monday to Wednesday and a Fall Adventure Camp program will run the full week Monday to Friday. The programs will run from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with drop off and pick up at Whistler Kids at Blackcomb Base.

Whistler Blackcomb will also be offering after-care programming for parents who need it from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The cost for both programs will be $50/day and $10/day for aftercare.

Lunch will not be provided.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler will also offer non-instructional programming through its Kids on the Go day program.

Full-day Kids on the Go programming runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Myrtle Philip and is $48 per day.

Space is limited for the Kids on the Go full-day program, and the RMOW will not be taking registration until it has been confirmed that the strike is continuing.

There may also be programming offered for high-school-aged youth.

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