By Jeff Nagel/Black Press
Education Minister Peter Fassbender says the province may take extraordinary steps to ensure senior secondary students’ school year is not cut short by the teachers strike.
That could mean adding days to the school calendar later in the year, he said, to ensure Grade 12 students in particular complete their courses and get all the marks they need.
“Do you put it on the end of the year? Do you take it out of spring break? Do you take it out of Christmas holidays? My staff are looking at all of the options,” Fassbender said.
“It’s going to depend on how long this drags out. Whatever length of time it takes to get this settled, we will do everything we can to make sure the school year is kept whole for those students.”
It’s unclear how the government would finance adding extra days of classes later when all of the $12 million per day in strike savings may be consumed by the province’s offer of $40-a-day payments to parents.
“If they were accumulating the savings, that would be one thing – they would have a fund,” Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said. “But they’re giving away the budget right now to parents that would be otherwise available to pay for that.”
As of Monday, 74 per cent of parents of eligible public school children under 13 had signed up for the $40 payments, which are expected to be made as a lump sum after the strike ends.
Other costs the province continues to incur while schools are closed include salaries for school administration as well as support staff with other unions that are eligible to be compensated for pay lost for not crossing teacher picket lines.
Support staff costs could hit $5 million a day once all their union locals ratify new contracts.
Education ministry officials said school districts would be consulted on any potential changes to the school year to mitigate the strike. But Bacchus said she’s heard nothing so far and predicted it would be disruptive to families that have booked vacations and made other commitments far in advance.
“It’s not going to be easy,” she said, noting changes would also require exemptions from School Act requirements.
Talk of calendar adjustments is another sign of possible long-term implications from the strike, even though it has only disrupted the first few days of the new school year.