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Parents simply want their kids back in school

Members of the Cowichan District Teachers’ Association rally outside the Cowichan Secondary School field Tuesday afternoon. As of Thursday, they were still without a deal that would send kids back to school Tuesday. - Peter W. Rusland
Members of the Cowichan District Teachers’ Association rally outside the Cowichan Secondary School field Tuesday afternoon. As of Thursday, they were still without a deal that would send kids back to school Tuesday.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Local parents and their children are fatigued and battle-weary from the long-standing dispute between B.C. teachers and their employer, a local parent said.

And they want to see their children in school Sept. 2.

"The long, ongoing dispute is eroding the public education system; it's not an acceptable situation," said Caroline Kirman, chairwoman of the Cowichan Valley District Parent Advisory Council. "What parents want is for kids to be back in school on Tuesday. This isn't fair for the students, it's really harming students, that's the thing."

Teachers have been on strike since mid-June. While exploratory talks Wednesday and the potential presence of mediator Vince Ready have sparked some optimism, as of Thursday afternoon it remained unlikely Cowichan students would be in class for what should be the start of the school year.

Of most concern to Kirman and other parents, she said, isn't so much what to do with their kids if schools aren't in, but the loss of learning.

"Neither side should be using our kids as political pawns, kids should be given more respect," she said. "We're calling on both sides to drop their job action, lockouts or strikes."

In a press release issued Aug.17, the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils called for an immediate improvement  to classroom resources that support students.

"Parents suggest the creation of a classroom resources fund that is protected from other cost pressures and will be used to optimize learning opportunities for each student in every class," the release read.

"B.C. parents want to move away from the current methodology of quotas and ratios, which are not distributing resources in the best way for B.C. students. It is important that classroom resources be directed by the school community to address the specific needs of each class and support the learning of every student in that class."

Kirman said that she hasn't heard about a lot of parents scrambling to find places for their children if schools remain closed.

"I think people have had enough time to make plans, they have seen this coming," Kirman said.

From numerous Facebook posts, she's seen parents trying to help each other out, with some trying to set up day cares.

She said the CVRD will extend its day cares and summer camps if there is no school on Tuesday, adding she's heard that Kerry Park and the Island Savings Centre are continuing their summer programming.

John Elzinga, of CVRD parks, recreation and culture said the district is offering schools out camps.

As to the $40 per day for each missed day of school the government has promised to parents for childcare and learning for children 12 and under, Kirman said she realizes that for some people it's a lifeline.

"But it's public education money and it should stay in the public education system," the PAC chair said."It seems it was done to torment the BCTF in some way....it might have initiated some action back to the bargaining table."

Meanwhile, regarding the learning resources information for parents found on the Ministry of Education's website she said she couldn't comment on the actual information.

"I see that as government pointing out another option rather than what should be happening, having kids back in class," Kirman said.

Kirman, like millions of other British Columbians, has only a few more days to see if what she says should be happening occurs on Sept. 2.

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