Lights out for after-school activities in Chilliwack

Chilliwack teachers will also not be participating in grad ceremonies. The onus will be on administration and parents.

Public school teachers have voted 73 per cent in favour of withdrawing extracurricular activities province-wide to intensify pressure on the provincial government in the continuing labour dispute.

Effective yesterday, all sports, theatre productions, academic and recreational clubs no longer have teachers at the helm.

A total of 21,625 teachers voted to ban volunteer work, while 7,846 voted no.

As a result, any activity early in its season or just starting will be cancelled. However, sports currently in the last throes of the season, or drama productions like G.W. Graham middle-secondary school’s Chicago which ends on April 28, will be allowed to continue to completion.

“We’re not going to stop those,” said Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Katharin Midzain. “But it will mean there won’t be a track season, and the expectation is sports at all high schools early or midway through the season will be stopping.”

Teachers will also not be participating in grad ceremonies. The onus will be on administration and parents.

While Midzain said that was probably the hardest decision for teachers not to be apart of, she noted it was far more important to take a stand for the future of public education for all students.

“I think it comes down to re-evaluating what’s important and certainly at this point in time what’s absolutely critical is the maintenance of a public education system that serves everybody’s needs, not just the Grade 12s,” said Midzain.

However, Gord Byers, president of Chilliwack District Parents’ Advisory Council, is skeptical enough parents will pick up the slack.

“We already have a hard enough time getting parent involvement, and now a lot of parents are going to have to be a lot more involved with grads,” he said. “A lot of [the concern] boils down to how it’s going to affect graduation.”

Education Minister George Abbott told reporters last week the BCTF vote to ban extracurricular activities will divide teachers, punish students and leave parents overseeing school functions.

It’s expected the withdrawal from extracurricular activities will pit teachers who still want to coach teams and run student clubs in defiance of the BCTF decision against more militant teachers who will be able to ask their union locals to take disciplinary action.

“It’s their personal decision,” Abbott said. “And I don’t believe it’s appropriate for the BCTF to be trying to interfere in that.”

But don’t expect it to end anytime soon.

“There are so many things in [Bill 22] that are just so potentially damaging. What will happen in classrooms is so long term that we need to take a stand and it will be a long one,” said Midzain.

Teacher withdrawal from extracurricular activities is expected to continue well beyond June.

~ with files from Tom Fletcher

kbartel@theprogress.com

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