Chilliwack’s graduation ceremonies are one of many school-based activities in jeopardy of being cut due to the escalated battle between teachers and the government.
In response to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s one-day rotating strike starting next week, the government has said, if no deal is reached, all high school teachers will be locked out on June 25 and 26, and all teachers locked out on June 27.
In a letter sent to the union, teachers were also told, effective Monday, they will not be allowed on school sites any time other than 45 minutes before and after school, and will not be permitted to interact with students during recess or lunch hour.
What that means for Chilliwack is still unclear.
“We’re not clear yet on what the impact will be,” said superintendent Evelyn Novak. “We recognize that certainly this does cause stress and anxiety for parents and students, and our staff as well … we’re going to try our best to continue on with as much normalcy as possible.”
Still, Novak acknowledged several activities could be cut as a result. Overnight camping trips, year-end field trips, sporting activities, and graduation ceremonies included.
“It’s disappointing for our students that those activities may not be occurring,” said Novak.
“We’re hoping that [graduation ceremonies] can proceed. They may not proceed in the same fashion and manner, but we’re hoping we can still carry them forward.”
The government, however says if any extracurricular activities are impacted, it will be at the fault of teachers.
In an email to the Chilliwack school district, Thursday, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Assocation (BCPSEA) stated teachers are free to participate in all extracurricular activities, despite the partial lockout.
“Teachers are free to participate in all extracurricular activities, including on school property,” the email stated. “There is nothing in the lockout that prevents BCTF members from continuing to participate in such activities as graduation, sports, and awards events. If teachers choose not to participate in such activities, they do so as a result of their own decision.”
Teachers supervising extended student field trips will also be exempted from the lockout provisions, and resulting loss of pay for the duration of the excursion.
“Should a teacher withdraw from a previous field trip commitment, they do so as a result of their own decision,” the email said.
The exemption, however, does not apply to new field trips, or trips of a minor nature where there is no financial penalty for cancellation.
The email clarification was in response to a news conference held Thursday morning by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
BCTF president Jim Iker told media the stop-work order will disrupt after-hours activities, including graduation ceremonies.
He also said it may disrupt year-end report cards and marking of provincial exams for graduating students.
BCPSEA did not address those claims in the email to the school district.
Gord Byers, president of the Chilliwack District Parents’ Advisory Council, has already fielded calls from concerned parents.
“I am really worried mostly about the impact this will have on our students, especially the ones that are graduating,” said Byers.
“We had this a couple of years ago where [graduating students] had to use their Grade 11 marks for their transcripts because teachers couldn’t mark exams. Are we going to run into the same thing we did before?”
Chilliwack board of education is holding a special meeting Friday morning to determine next steps. The school district will be relaying the information through schools and its website Friday afternoon.
In addition to the lockout, the government will also be cutting teacher salaries by 10 per cent starting May 26 in response to the strike action.