Not all B.C. public schools will remain open to students during the provincial teachers' strike next week, despite assurances by the government, and that has left many parents scrambling for child care.
B.C. Education Minister George Abbott said in Victoria on Thursday that principals, vice-principals and support staff will remain on the job, but added that he's not encouraging parents to take their kids to school.
School districts' plans
- Northern B.C. schools will be open, but parents are asked not to send children to school. Buses will not be running.
- Central Okanagan and Okanagan Skaha schools will be open, but not for instruction.
- Many one-room schools in the Kamloops-Thompson School District will not be staffed.
- Kootenay school districts are asking parents to keep students home.
- Greater Victoria, Sooke, the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo/Ladysmith schools will be open, but parents are asked to keep children home.
- Saanich schools will be open, but parents are asked to keep students home, except for Grade 12s who are encouraged to go to school for self-directed study on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- North Island and the Comox Valley schools will be closed to students
- Vancouver School District is asking parents to keep their children home.
"It's going to be a boring place, generally speaking," Abbott said. "There will probably be a lot of sitting around and talking, so it won't be an interesting or exciting place."
But across the province, it appears there will be varying degrees of supervision, with decisions made on a district-by-district basis.
The B.C. Public School Employers' Association says letters will be sent out by the districts to parents, letting them know whether students can still show up.
The Vancouver School Board's superintendent of schools, Steve Cardwell, is asking parents to keep their children home during the strike.
Cardwell says there won't be enough staff at schools to provide adequate supervision.
In Prince Rupert, School District 52 has already told parents not to let students go to school on Monday, also because of a lack of staff.
Meanwhile, CUPE, which represents school support staff workers, is telling its members that, while they're to go to work, the schools are closed to students.
Scrambling for child care
In areas where schools are shut down, many working parents will be scrambling to find child care.
The uncertainty might lead many parents to turn to online classifieds, which has prompted a warning from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about the number of child-care services suddenly popping up online.
"In a time when emotions are very high, this is unfortunately when the scammers come out," said Lynda Pasacreta, president of the Vancouver-area BBB.
"We highly recommend that you look for other ways to find daycare, babysitting services, through this short period of time."
Although The B.C. Teachers' Federation has not said what it plans to do after the three-day strike next week, the organization does have the option of striking one day a week after that.
But it’s not clear if teachers will get a chance to exercise that option before the passage of Bill 22, the provincial legislation banning further strikes and forcing a six-month cooling-off period in the contract dispute.
The government has said the bill is too important to rush through the legislature, and the NDP has suggested it will try to delay passage.
Most schools already have time off for March break, but if the legislation is not passed quickly, parents could be scrambling for child care again before the month is over.