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Chilliwack parents asked to keep kids at home

Parents, keep your children home.

That's the message coming out of the school board office in light of this week's one-day rotating strike.

Letters were sent home to parents late last week requesting they keep their children home from classes Thursday, May 29, the scheduled day Chilliwack teachers will be on picket lines.

Although schools will technically be open, there will be no adequate supervision, said superintendent Evelyn Novak.

The district anticipates other unionized workers will honour picket lines put up by teachers. As a result, buses will not be running, nor will support staff be on duty.

"We know that our teachers and support staff will not be reporting for duty, so we are asking parents to keep their children home that day," said Novak.

"We want to ensure that our students and staff are safe, that is our primary concern."

In addition, all school-based daycares, preschools, StrongStart centres, community schools, and neighbourhood learning centres will be closed, and facility rentals cancelled.

Parents looking for more information are asked to watch the school district website, or contact their school principal.

“We know that you share with us the desire to return to normal operations as quickly as possible and that this labour dispute will soon be concluded,” she said.

The rotating walkouts, which start in various school districts on Monday, come as tensions between the BCTF and the government reach an new high.

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the province's 60 school districts, informed the union last week that a 5% pay cut will be put in place "soon" in response to the first phase of strike action.

The BCTF began work-to-rule action in April, refusing supervision outside classrooms and communication with school management. Rotating strikes were also authorized by the BCTF membership in a March vote, and beginning to shut down schools could result in an effort to cut teacher pay by 10%.

Cameron said last week the union's latest wage demand amounts to 15.9% over four years, far beyond what other provincial public service unions have received. The BCTF maintains its wage proposal is 13.25% over four years, including cost-of-living increases based on each year's inflation rate.

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