Despite strike, first week at school business as usual, superintendent says

The school year started Sept. 6 with a limited teachers’ strike underway after the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement over the summer.

One week into the new school year, the ongoing teachers’ strike hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of students getting back into classrooms.

“There’s always a buzz at the beginning of the school year,” said John Gaiptman, superintendent for Greater Victoria schools. “Students are excited. Educators are excited. I think the tone has been excellent.”

The school year started Sept. 6 with a limited teachers’ strike underway after the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement over the summer.

The former contract with B.C.’s 40,000 teachers expired on June 30.

During phase 1 of the job action, teachers will prepare and teach lessons, but will abstain from administrative duties, including staff meetings and preparation of report cards.

Negotiations over class size and composition began following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in April that found the 2001 removal of class size and composition legislation unconstitutional.

“At this point, students and teachers should not notice any difference as to what’s transpiring in classes in Greater Victoria,” Gaiptman said.

Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teacher’s Association agrees the job action has had a minimal effect on students – as well as the bargaining progress thus far.

“So long as there’s a net zero mandate, there’s nothing to bargain at the table,” Ehrcke said. “Until there’s a shift from government, it’s difficult to picture how we’re going to progress.”

The discussions, Ehrcke says, have not yet turned to escalating the job action.

“We want an opportunity to have pressure on the administration for a period of time and hopefully there will be some effect,” she said. “We’re very hopeful that we can put that pressure on government without having to impact students.”

So far, text book distribution is one of the administrative duties causing small issues across Greater Victoria, Ehrcke said.

Back inside the schools, the Greater Victoria School District is expecting to see approximately 90,740 students enrolled this year, up 40 students from 2010-11. This year marks the second of slight gains in enrolment numbers for the district, which expanded by 50 students over 13 grades last year.

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