B.C. teachers’ strike putting start of school year in Nanaimo in doubt

NANAIMO – School district waiting on progress at bargaining table.

The possibility of the B.C. teachers’ strike spilling into September is throwing a wrench into the Nanaimo school district’s preparations for the start of the school year.

Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said school is scheduled to start Sept. 3 but whether classes commence is absolutely dependent on what takes place at the bargaining table. The school district is ultimately hoping for a resolution but the uncertainty is making it difficult to make contingency plans and get ready for 2014-15, she said.

“The biggest problem that we foresee is [this] week is the week that we take new registrations and the week that parents let us know if they aren’t coming back to their school … so for schools to know exactly which kids they have, which ones are coming, what the new ones are, how much space they have, if schools are behind picket lines next week, then our start-up will be a bit more difficult,” Reimer said.

Rather than having parents heading to schools to register, crossing picket lines in the process, Reimer said the school district is recommending they call the school and talk to the principal.

She said the school district board office has been behind picket lines since July 20 and as a result, maintenance work on district schools has not been completed, as related staff don’t wish to cross lines.

“We have stopped watering our fields and they haven’t been maintained, so the fields might not be in the shape we’d like them to be, schools may not have all the updating projects that we would’ve liked to have done in the summer,” she said.

Mike Ball, Nanaimo teachers’ union president, confirmed that Jim Iker, provincial president, met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Peter Cameron, the province’s chief negotiator, for discussions yesterday.

“I don’t know what [they’ll discuss]. We’re not sure yet how much they have to offer, but it sounded like they wanted to run something by him to try and see if they could get a deal done,” Ball said yesterday. “How successful it will be, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

According to Ball, mediator Vince Ready has also been involved in discussions with both sides. He estimated a soft deadline of Friday (Aug. 29) as a timeframe a deal would have to be reached by in order to avoid a delay to the start of the school year.