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Students rally for their education

Grade 12 students Sofia Morano, Joseph Montebello and Mitch Clark stand along the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway and James Street as they protest the impact the teachers
Grade 12 students Sofia Morano, Joseph Montebello and Mitch Clark stand along the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway and James Street as they protest the impact the teachers' strike on their education.
— image credit: Kathy Santini

As striking teachers watched from their picket line 100 feet down the road, Cowichan Secondary School students waved signs along the Trans Canada Highway and James Street, protesting the current impasse between teachers and the provincial government.

"Stuck in the middle; I want to go to school; I have a right to education, and Cowichan Valley cares, support our kids," were just a handful of the signs carried by CSS students a day after missing their first day of school because of a teachers' strike that started in June.

About 15 students, all attending CSS, met in front of the school at 10 a.m. Wednesday. And according to Ayanna Clappis, a Grade 12 student, they'll be there through Friday and maybe into next week, if an agreement isn't reached.

"This is a start, we want B.C. kids to stand up," she said. "If we don't, we won't be acknowledged. I think everyone (all grades) should come, even those not attending Cow High, because they're being affected too."

Clappis said the demonstration came together Monday, when someone from the class of 2015 urged classmates on CSS's Grads of 2015 Facebook page to be more proactive about the strike.

At the start of their protest Wednesday, students stood in the middle of James Street road with their signs. They were, Clappis said,  illustrating how they were stuck in the middle of the two opposing sides. Attending police moved students off the street.

"I'm tired of nothing being done. I'd like to get back to school," said John Henry Morten, who if classes were in, would be in Grade 12. "It's ridiculous neither side is budging; they need to figure it out, they're hurting the kids."

As drivers honked their support, Morten said he wasn't on either party's side, a sentiment echoed by fellow schoolmates Lucas Grosse and Shai McCoy.

Grosse, who should be in Grade 11, said he's worried that the strike will put him behind.

"We don't deserve that, we did nothing wrong," the CSS student said.

He's spending his free time working extra hours as a prep cook at his part-time job.

McCoy, who should be in Grade 12, said she's really worried.

"Last year's graduating class almost lost their education because of the strike," she said. "I think both sides are being childish."

After graduating, she hopes to be a paramedic and is worried about how the strike could impact the application process.

One hundred feet down the road, four teachers sat on chairs as fellow teachers walked the picket line.

"I think it's great, they're out here supporting themselves, voicing their opinions," said Mark Bennett, an English teacher at CSS.

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