By Tyler Olsen and Tom Fletcher
A tentative deal between teachers and the province to end the ongoing strike has sent administrators scrambling to prepare for the return of students to Abbotsford schools.
Superintendent Kevin Godden said schools in the district are ready to go, but arranging student schedules and teacher assignments will require a substantial amount of work in the days to come.
Principals will meet Wednesday to plan for the year, and Godden expects a letter to be sent to parents.
“We have to be able to ensure that we have all those last-minute details to make sure that we can take care of all those different arrangements, ranging from the kindergarten student who’s having her first day of school to a Grade 12 student who is concerned about their course load so they can meet university entrance requirements,” he told The News.
The disruption to the end of the last school year also upended planning that is usually done to prepare for the return of students in the fall, Godden said.
The work crunch aside, Godden said Tuesday’s news came as a relief.
“It was just great news because I know it’s very, very difficult for our community,” he said. “It’s been very difficult for our teachers, our support staff, our parents, our trustees, families.
It’s been very difficult for everyone, so it’s been relief and excitement that we can get on with the work that we’ve been invested in for the last number of years.”
B.C.’s striking teachers are expected to vote this week on a tentative settlement with the provincial government.
Mediator Vince Ready announced the agreement early Tuesday morning, after five days of talks at a Richmond hotel.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province’s negotiators agreed to withhold details until they have a final document to present, he said.
With a ratification vote of 40,000 union members expected to be held Thursday, the province’s 60 school districts are attempting to return to regular classes next week after five weeks of full-scale strike action that began last June.
Premier Christy Clark said if the vote passes, schools will be up and running again as early as Monday.
“We’ll have five years to talk about the things that really matter, and that’s children in classrooms,” Clark said in Vancouver Tuesday.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender has said a plan will be developed to make up missed instructional days, which could involve rescheduling Christmas and spring breaks.
Every student’s education will be “kept whole,” particularly senior high school students looking ahead to post-secondary studies, he said.
The agreement includes money to settle thousands of union grievances accumulated since the province removed class size and teacher staffing levels from the teacher contract in 2002.
Clark said the deal includes increased funds to hire more teachers to address class size and special needs support. It spans six years, retroactive to the expiry of the earlier agreement last spring, with raises
averaging just over one per cent per year.
The government’s appeal of a court decision ordering the return of 2002 class size provisions will continue, Clark said.
Godden said the district expects to hear soon from the province regarding this year’s school schedule, including hours of instruction, exam periods and semester dates.
A pro-D day had been scheduled for next Friday, but Godden said the district and teachers’ union are working together to move that to another date in the school year.
“We’ve got to get some momentum with the school year.”