St. Michaels University School rugby player Jeff Nishima-Miller prepares for contact with the Gulf Islands’ Alex Graham during the Vancouver Island seven-a-side tournament at Centennial Stadium on Friday. Private schools such as SMUS won’t be affected by this week’s teachers’ vote

Teacher strike could affect high school grad, sports and drama this spring

Voluntary extracurricular activities cancelled in Saanich district, no word in Victoria expected until Friday

Dorothy will soon click her ruby slippers across the Ridge Playhouse stage during Claremont secondary’s presentation of The Wizard of Oz.

However, not all schools will have the opportunity to present their final productions as the threat of a province-wide removal of voluntary extracurricular activities looms.

Teachers vote this week (April 17 to 19) on whether to support the B.C. Teachers’ Federation plan to ramp up job action with boycotts of voluntary services.

The move is in protest of Bill 22 – legislation that removes class size and composition limits and introduces hefty fines for teachers who strike. If supported, this week’s vote will trigger a second vote on whether to support a potential walkout.

Teachers in about a dozen districts across B.C., including Sooke and Saanich, are already strongly recommending that their colleagues refuse to volunteer for extracurricular activities.

Sports, music and theatre programming offered outside regular school hours are generally considered extracurricular.

However, The Wizard of Oz – which involves 90 students, or about 10 per cent of the school’s population – will continue since the production is part of a course that is considered curricular.

“I empathize with the other teachers around the province who have put so much time in and are looking at having to cancel if the vote goes ahead with the removal of extracurricular (activities),” said Claremont drama teacher Colin Plant. “There are productions around the province that are stopping.”

Plant, who is also the president of the Association of B.C. Drama Educators, noted the association’s annual provincial drama festival, slated to take place May 3 in New Westminster, was cancelled to mitigate financial loss if the vote passes as expected.

The cancellation of theatre productions is primarily a secondary school issue, Plant said. Drama tends to be a part of exploratory programs at the elementary and middle school levels, and performances are often fit into regular class times.

The Saanich School District officially announced the cancellation of voluntary extracurricular activities on April 12. Parent and community involvement will allow most sporting events in high schools to continue.

All voluntary extracurricular activities such as athletics, choir and drama will not take place at the elementary school level.

At middle schools, most athletics have been cancelled and decisions regarding other special events have been made based on levels of support at each school. Arrangements have yet to be made for graduation ceremonies, which require teacher involvement.

“While we expect the ceremonies to occur,” the announcement reads, “we are uncertain as to the status of other post-ceremony events and appreciate that parents, administrators, teachers, support staff and student leaders are in ongoing discussions regarding grad.”

Meanwhile, it’s been anything but business as usual for teachers performing regular duties in the district, said Sean Hayes, president of the Saanich Teachers’ Association.

“Teachers are concerned and frustrated and worried,” said Hayes, who has spent much of the last couple of weeks visiting schools to discuss Bill 22 and the action plan with teachers. “Certainly there are people wondering what the right thing to do is and how to effectively oppose the direction of government and (if) this is the right way to do it.”

In Greater Victoria, teachers plan to participate in voluntary extracurricular activities – except in some select cases – until the results of the BCTF vote, confirmed Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

Results are likely to be released Friday.

To read the full announcement on voluntary extracurricular activities in the Saanich School District, visit sd63.bc.ca.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Check it out

The Wizard of Oz, Claremont’s first musical aimed at all-ages, runs May 2 to 5, and from May 9 to 12, at 7 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on May 12.

All tickets are $12.50 and are available by calling 250-658-6672.

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