14,000 Alberta teachers on strike

More than 14,000 teachers across Alberta went on strike Monday

Close to 14,000 Alberta teachers went on strike Monday morning, despite some weekend progress at the bargaining table. The move will shut down hundreds of schools, and affect some 200,000 students.

Teachers from 18 school districts won't be showing up for work to try to pressure the government into accepting their demands for smaller class sizes as well as salary increases averaging 20 per cent over two years.

Learning Minister Lyle Oberg says the province can't afford to pay that amount. In full-page newspaper ads, the government has said that a six per cent hike would make them the highest paid school teachers in Canada.

The president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, Larry Booi, warned Sunday that the strike was "clearly going forward."

That left parents scrambling to find alternate places to send their children during the day. Community recreation centres have hired extra staff and are clearing space for students.

Community centres make space for students

Gayle Sherwood, with Calgary's Renfrew Park pool, says art lessons and swimming programs are being set up wherever space can be found.

"Other pools are taking children as well, but not all of them. Space is a major issue, not every facility has the room," said Sherwood.

Some of these programs could run up to $25 a day, which could prove costly to parents if the strike drags on.

The teachers union, as well as many of the school boards, say a quick settlement is unlikely without an infusion of cash from the provincial government.

The Red Deer public board avoided a strike Sunday by reaching a two-year deal that will give teachers an 11.5 per cent pay raise in the first year, and an amount to be negotiated in the second.

Oberg said that teachers have the right to strike, but he called on them to reconsider leaving their classrooms.

"I really encourage them to explore all options before taking actions that will negatively impact students," he said. "I encourage both teachers and school boards to look at the facts."