B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender says there's a 50-50 chance of getting a deal with public school teachers before a full-scale strike begins tomorrow.

The two sides bargained throughout the weekend at a downtown Vancouver hotel under a media blackout.

On Monday morning, Fassbender said it was a productive weekend of bargaining, but there's still lots of work to be done.

"Both the BCTF [B.C. Teachers' Federation] and the government had counter-proposals that went back and forth. They met until midnight last night," said Fassbender.

"To say that they came close to an agreement would be an overstatement."

The president of the B.C. Teachers' Federdation Jim Iker is expected to update members on the negotiations at 10 a.m. PT in an online broadcast. CBC News will carry the broadcast live online.

B.C.'s public school teachers are set to go on strike Tuesday, but students aren't in class Monday because the teachers' union has called a provincewide study session.

Last Thursday, the BCTF served the required strike notice of 72 hours, after members voted last week 86 per cent in favour of escalating rotating strike action.

In addition to the study sessions, the teachers have planned a number of rallies around the province on Monday.

In Victoria, teachers will hold a rally at the legislature starting at 1 p.m. PT, following their study session. 

Teachers in Vancouver have rented the Orpheum Theatre for a morning study session, which is expected to be followed by a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Teachers are also expected to stage rallies in Mission and other school districts across the province.

Summer school up in the air

A big unanswered question is the impact of a full-scale strike on summer school. The provincial Ministry of Education says it wants to see summer school go ahead and that its lockout would not apply to summer school.

But the union hasn't yet said how the strike might affect those plans.

Some districts run summer school programs with teachers, but others contract the work out. Bob Holmes, the president of the Surrey District Parent Advisory Committee, says summer school plans will likely vary district by district.

The Labour Relations Board has designated provincial exams an essential service guaranteeing high school students their final grades.

hi-bc-130617-school-exam-stock

The Labour Relations Board has ruled that supervision of Grade 10-12 provincial exams in B.C. is an essential service.

The B.C. Public School Employers' Association says the following services have now been deemed essential:

  • Supervision of Grade 10-12 provincial exams.
  • Provision of final grades for Grade 12 students no later than June 20.
  • Carrying out of all tests scheduled to determine if a student should receive a special needs designation.
  • Provision of all information needed to confirm or discontinue the designation for students in the intensive behaviour/serious mental illness category for the 2014-15 school year.

School districts must now consult with teachers on the best way to ensure these requirements are met, whilst minimizing the number of staff needed by combining classes or holding exams in larger groups.

The LRB has also said it will rule on the issue of the submission of marks for students in Grades 10 and 11 if an application is received​.

Potential strike impacts

Here's what a full strike will mean for students in kindergarten up to Grade 9:

  • Schools would be closed.
  • Parents should make child care arrangements, where required.
  • Final report cards will be sent to parents, but written comments may be shorter than usual.

Here's what a full strike will mean for students in Grades 10, 11 and 12:

Children in playground

Friday was the last day of school for most public school students in B.C. (CBC)

  • Picket lines could be outside schools.
  • Students in rural areas may not have normal school
  • Secondary schools would likely only be open for the purpose of administering exams. bus service
  • Provincial exams will be marked and final marks will be sent out in as timely a manner as possible.

Teachers have been without a contract since June 2013, and the vote is the latest development in the dispute that has seen the union and government divided over issues of wages and classroom conditions.

The government has saved $12 million each week in salaries during the teachers' current but limited job action, plus nearly $5 million more by chopping wages.


Schedule for B.C.'s provincial exams

June 16-26

  • Apprenticeship and Workplace Mathematics 10 Foundations of Mathematics and Pre-Calculus 10 (Schools may schedule these sessions at any time after June 16.)

June 18

  • Science 10 (only for schools that require an early session) 
  • Apprenticeship and Workplace Mathematics 10 Foundations of Mathematics 
  • Pre-Calculus 10

June 19

  • BC First Nations Studies 12 

June 20

  • English 12
  • English 10 First Peoples
  • Communications 12
  • Français langue première 10

June 23

  • Français langue seconde-immersion 12
  • Français langue première 12
  • Science 10
  • Civic Studies 11

June 24

  • English 12 First Peoples
  • English 10
  • Social Studies 11

Source: B.C. Ministry of Education