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Parents improvise as school openings delayed

Teachers picket as labour dispute continues

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Parents in the Sea to Sky School District are finding their own way to get their kids into the classroom in the face of the ongoing labour dispute between the BC Teachers Federation and the BC Public School Employers Association.

In the case of Danielle Kristmanson, that meant hiring a recent education grad as a tutor for her daughters and some of their peers.

"We started out thinking maybe we'd rummage up five or six kids, and before you know it we had to cut it off at nine," Kristmanson said. "So I'm going to have nine kids sitting around my dining room table."

The makeshift classroom will be based off of a Grade 8 curriculum and will run five days a week.

Kristmanson said she isn't the only parent looking for alternatives.

"Just about every parent that I'm talking to these days is trying to find some sort of solution," she said.

"There's lots of parents that are just banding together and doing similar things, trying to work with the same situation."

Carl Walker, president of the Sea to Sky Teachers Association, said he's not surprised some parents are taking that initiative.

"I understand that parents want to do what's best for their kids, so, yeah, I understand why they would do that," Walker said.

While the BCTF is disappointed a deal wasn't struck in time to open schools, Walker said teachers are prepared to resume talks "at any time."

"With respect to the monetary items the two sides really are not that far apart," he said.

"The BCTF has made significant changes to our bargaining proposals and significant concessions, and from our perspective, BCPSEA hasn't budged at all."

The main issue keeping the two sides apart, as it has been all summer, concerns class size and composition.

Earlier this week, Walker sent a letter to Parent Advisory Committee chairs asking them to support teachers on the picket line.

"Not only parents, but other supporters of public education," Walker said.

"So parents, retired teachers, other union members, and I think it's just to send a message to the government that it isn't just the teachers' fight, but other community groups as well."

Chris Vernon-Jarvis, one of Whistler's elected school trustees, said that while he's been hearing concerns from frustrated parents, there's little that the trustees can do.

"I hope we get the kids back to school soon, and I wish we had more to do it with, but... the situation at the moment is between the government and the teachers, and our only influence is to urge both sides to settle as soon as possible," he said.

With no resolution in the ongoing dispute, schools in the Sea to Sky School District will remain closed for the immediate future.

"Our administrative teams will be at each school in the event that you need to reach them," superintendent Lisa McCullough said in a letter to parents. "However, we will not have sufficient supervision to have our students attending school. Our school bus transportation will also not be operating."

Parents with children aged 12 and under are eligible to receive $40 for every day that their child misses school due to the strike.

Parents must first register at www.bcparentinfo.com.

The payment will be issued 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends.

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