The Arrow Lakes Teachers Association SD 10 is back to picketing. Area teachers are normally in the classroom at this time of year getting down to the business of educating, plus organizing sports and extra-curricular activities. School doors remain locked, no children in the hallways, no excitement of new classmates and no commencement of the school year.
Several teachers from different grades and departments are manning the picket line on a daily basis at Nakusp Elementary School and Nakusp Secondary School wearing placards reading “A fair deal for teachers. Better support for kids.”
Local Union President Ric Bardati from New Denver has also joined them. He indicated that most of the 37 teachers on the roster have shown up for shifts to demonstrate.
Teachers have been scheduled on shifts for picketing by voluntary ‘captains’ at each of the district’s five public schools. When asked what he would like to see happen, Bardati said, “I would love to see a negotiated fair deal by both the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCFT) and British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA). I would have loved that teachers were back in the classroom on September 2.”
Being on strike has had both positive and negative impact on the Teachers who live and work in the district. Marching together on the picket lines, there has been great opportunity to share information, learn about the issues and feel supported by their colleagues. Not being in the classrooms, they have had ample time to discuss the issues.
On the flipside, Bardati said “The financial strain because teachers aren’t working, and some teachers have had to get second and third jobs just to cover their living expenses. There is a frustration with respect to what is out in the media and when we hear the minister of education speaking. We are teachers and as such we are kind of bound by taking a moral and ethical ground so we are not going to be dissing anybody but we are frustrated by what we see.”
Bardati states that the biggest issue is of class size and composition. Having assistance in the classroom when there are students who have physical, mental or behavioural challenges is at the top of his list. He admits that rural districts don’t tend to share the issue of class size but the ratio of special needs to teachers is a very real concern. He spoke about one of the other issues he sees impacting our students the most.
“We are affected by the lack of (financial) resources. There has been strong support from parents who are concerned about their children. Many of them can see how the system resources have been eroded. Especially if they have had older children come through the schools and graduate, compared to what things are like now. There is support in favour of our strike because this is for the future of education in B.C..”
If the amount of vehicles driving past with people honking and waving is any indicator of the positive community support, the teachers have it.