Students participate in the walkout outside Nanaimo District Secondary School on Wednesday.

Students participate in the walkout outside Nanaimo District Secondary School on Wednesday.

Nanaimo students walk out to protest labour dispute

NANAIMO – Job action from teachers and lockout from employer leaves kids feeling caught in the middle.

With the dispute between the province and teachers ongoing, Nanaimo students took to the streets to voice their displeasure Wednesday.

The B.C. Student Walkout for Students took place across the province and many Nanaimo students said they felt stuck between the teachers and the province in the ongoing labour dispute.

Teachers ramped up job action in late May, staging one-day, rotating strikes throughout the province. In response, the B.C. School Employers’ Association locked out teachers, barring them from working 45 minutes prior to and after school, and during breaks.

Emma Montrose, a Grade 10 student from Dover Bay Secondary, said she is feeling stressed out about upcoming English and math provincial exams and needs more instruction.

“For math especially, we’re doing trigonometry and I don’t understand what we’re doing and because of the strike action and job action and all that, I’m unable to go in after class or during breaks to get further understanding in it,” Montrose said, adding that provincial exams start in less than two weeks.

Montrose said she isn’t on the side of teachers or the province, but feels like students are paying the price for the labour dispute.

“We’re really not on either side,” she said. “We’re frustrated because we’re being torn apart and they’re saying it’s for us when we’re not getting the help we need.”

Jasper Parsley-Kehoe, a Grade 10 student at Nanaimo District Secondary, has missed instruction time leading up to a French immersion math provincial. Like Montrose, she feels caught in the middle and said students’ needs should be taken into consideration, but added she is supportive of teachers.

“It’s not about wages. It’s about class sizes, it’s about staffing. The wages are a small part that the government really likes to focus on so they can demonize the teachers,” Parsley-Kehoe said.

“I support the teachers; I know that’s not the view of a lot of the students who are out here, but the teachers are really fighting for smaller class sizes, which really aids in our education because you can get more one-on-one time with a teacher and with 31 people in a class to one teacher, you’re not getting any one-on-one time,” she said, pointing to her English and math classes as examples of packed classrooms.

In a letter to parents sent out Tuesday, Nanaimo school district deputy superintendent John Blain recommended against student participation.

District spokeswoman Donna Reimer said whether students are penalized is dependent on individual schools.

“They will be marked absent for sure and I guess it would depend on each school but I think for the most part it would just be an absence,” Reimer said, adding about 400 students in the Nanaimo area walked out of class Wednesday.