By Dale Bass
Kamloops This Week
School halls in School District 73 were filled on Monday, Sept. 22, with a sound that’s been missing for some time — children’s voices.
However, with a contract in place and the school year beginning again this week, there remain some issues to be resolved beyond decorating the walls and getting final class lists confirmed.
David Komljenovic, president of the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers Association (KTTA), said the Kamloops-Thompson school district 73 opted for a two-day phase-in for kindergarten students, while other districts in the province are allowing four days.
“We would have preferred a gradual entry so the kids can take the time to get used to their new surroundings,” he said.
School-district Supt. Karl deBruijn said with the number of lost school days and the fact parents have been inconvenienced by the teachers’ strike, his administration decided on the two-day plan, with kindergarten in full session on Thursday, Sept. 25.
The goal is to minimize the number of instructional hours that need to be made up somehow through this school year, he said.
Otherwise, deBruijn said, the first day of school went well.
He expects to have a better idea of total enrolment later this week.
There are other details to be worked out — class-preparation times have changed in the new contract and a planned professional-development in-service day on Friday, Sept. 26, has been moved to November.
Before classes started at mid-morning yesterday, some teachers were asking each other how to handle angry parents they might encounter.
On a Facebook page with many KTTA members, Komljenovic posted that the best reply would be:
“Every child deserves more support. We stood up to get more support for students and to ensure the system meets the needs of students. We didn’t fully achieve that, but change will start happening this year. We returned to work once we had another way to advocate for that support which is through the courts.”
One lingering reality from the five-week labour dispute, Komljenovic said, is there will be anger.
“And I would say there are a lot upset here,” he said. “It will take time for the healing to happen.”
Some of that was shown on the same Facebook page, where teachers posted and commented on a rumour they had heard regarding savings the province netted from the labour impasse would not be coming back to school districts as had been promised.
Scott Sutherland of the Ministry of Education’s communications department said money saved to the end of June, a month that saw rotating strikes by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and, eventually, a lockout by the government, will be going to the Learning Improvement Fund as promised, with 20 per cent of the savings remaining in each district.
Money saved from Sept. 2 (when school was supposed to begin) to Sept. 19 (the last day of labour action) will be used to pay the $40 daily grant to parents of pre-teens in the public-education system for each day their child could not go to school.
Any money left after those payments are made will be subject to discussions between the ministry and school districts.