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Frustrated students plan to walk out on Wednesday

Outside West Langley Elementary School Tuesday morning (from left), Gold Janzen, Louise Menzies, Fran McLeod and Shar O’Connell were picketing in support of rotating teacher walkouts staged by the BCTF. - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
Outside West Langley Elementary School Tuesday morning (from left), Gold Janzen, Louise Menzies, Fran McLeod and Shar O’Connell were picketing in support of rotating teacher walkouts staged by the BCTF.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

Students at the majority of Langley middle and high schools are expected to walk out of class on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., as part of a B.C.-wide student protest of the ongoing teacher/government labour dispute.

“Students are showing the teachers that their protest is effecting us students, our grades, exams and extra curricular activities,” said one Aldergrove student.

“We are not trying to take sides. We just want them all to know that our education is being messed with,” said Hailey, a Grade 8 student at Betty Gilbert.

“Our grades matter, the end of the year is really important for exams,” she said.

Already 10,000 students across B.C. have said they will join the walk out on a Facebook page started by a student who feels they are being “caught in the middle” like “parents who are divorcing.”

Students also walked out in 2012, when they were the casualties of the teacher/government contract dispute then.

The student walkout is being sparked by a Grade 12 student from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Cloverdale. Victoria Barker said she is frustrated by how students are being caught in the middle of the dispute, and said Grade 12 students are in a particularly challenging situation, with final exams looming and many planning to go on to post-secondary studies in September.

She said students from across the province have been in touch, and many walkouts are planned.

Wednesday is the only day teachers aren’t on strike this week across the province.

Teachers in Langley took to the streets instead of the classrooms on Monday, in the second round of rotating strikes.

As the school year comes closer to an end, there appears no resolution is in sight.

The government is locking out high school teachers on June 25 and 26 and all teachers on June 27, the last day of school.

Langley school trustees had to change venues, but their board of education meeting went ahead Monday evening.

The board meeting was to take place at Township hall at 7 p.m.

The venue change was to address the teachers’ strike action that day.

Already, the original meeting that was scheduled for May 27 was cancelled when the B.C. Teachers Federation announced Langley schools would be behind picket lines that day.

The board has yet to say anything about the teachers’ dispute. Meanwhile, parents and students are scrambling to know what events and exams will be impacted by the ongoing dispute.

There appears to be no end in sight to the labour dispute.

Teachers continue to strike and the government began its partial lockout. A full lockout of all high school teachers starts on June 25 and 26, and then all teachers on June 27. Final exams are held on June 25 and 26, but the government claims those will still go ahead. Provincial exams apparently are also said to go ahead, unless teachers are striking that day.

There is much confusion about who is making that decision.

Teachers say the government locked them out and told them they weren’t allowed to do any extra activities.

According to the BC Public School Employers’ Association’s letter on May 26, posted on the Langley School District website under Teacher Bargaining Update, the partial lockout should not prevent teachers from continuing their involvement with student extracurricular programs or other volunteer activities, even if they fall within school hours, like in recess.

The BCPSEA also claims that the lockout shouldn’t prevent teachers from participating in any grad or end-of-school events either.

“At best, everything is uncertain. It’s tricky for everyone to understand. Both sides are saying two different things,” said Langley school district spokesperson Ken Hoff on Thursday.

A letter to parents from school superintendent Suzanne Hoffman thanks teachers and staff for keeping learning a “priority during these challenging times.”

On Thursday, WorkSafe BC refuted the BCTF’s claim that teachers wouldn’t be covered during recess and lunch under the lockout guidelines. The BCTF president had said earlier that is why he directed teachers to not participate in anything outside the classroom.

But in the meantime, the government is directing teachers not to arrive early or stay later during the work day, and then docking each teacher’s pay 10 per cent each day.

The government is also saving millions of dollars for every day teachers are on strike because they aren’t being paid.

Teachers are asking for a 15 per cent raise over four years and changes to class composition. The needs of special needs students overshadow regular students, and teachers feel overburdened.

The Ministry of Education is refusing, so far, to look at class composition or the need for more SEAs in classrooms.

 

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