Teachers’ strike won’t interrupt provincial exams

Support staff won't be blocked from entering schools to help students

Abbotsford teachers are shown outside of Yale Secondary during the first week of one-day rotating strikes at the end of May.

Provincial exams will go ahead without a problem despite the ongoing teachers strike, but all others students won’t get report cards.

Administrators will be able to oversee the exams, and support staff won’t be stopped from entering schools to assist students in need of a reader or scribe, Abbotsford district superintendent Kevin Godden said Tuesday.

“Those exams will go along just fine,” Godden said. “Working with the union, we have a process for identifying students who need specialized adjudication to participate in the exams.”

Provincial exams begin today (Wednesday) and run until June 24. The Labour Relations Board has deemed that Grade 12 report cards and work associated with provincial exams are essential services.

Godden said the support staff needed to assist students  will be identified and allowed to enter schools. He said the district is working with both the unions that represent the teachers and support staff to minimize any disruption.

With that taken care of, Godden said it becomes a waiting game to produce report cards for younger students.

“We can actually fairly comfortably issue marks for Grade 12 students and we’ll have to wait out the rest of it,” he said.

Talks broke down this weekend, with both sides casting blame on the other.

Locally, there seems to be some optimism.

“We continue to be hopeful that parties come back to the table and will be a little closer this time than last,” Godden said. He urged both sides to return to the table and keep the disputes out of the media.

“Arguing in public is time away from the bargaining table,” he said.

Heidi Smit Vinois, the vice-chair of the Abbotsford District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), said parents are hoping the situation is resolved soon.

“Generally, there is an impatience because a lot of lives have been affected and everyone sincerely hopes that we can create something lasting,” said Vinois, who has three children in Abbotsford schools.

The DPAC has taken a neutral stance in the labour dispute.

While optimism may be present in Abbotsford, the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) released a statement Monday that suggested that the two sides were still some ways apart.

The BCPSEA said it was offering a seven per cent raise over six years, while the teachers’ union was asking for 12.6 per cent over five years. But wages may not be the largest stumbling block. The BCPSEA said the teachers’ plan would increase costs by $2 billion in the fifth year of the contract, with the majority of that due to changes in class composition requiring the hiring of more teachers.

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