British Columbia

Abbotsford school district must do more for teachers cut off from work by floods, union says

The Abbotsford Teachers' Union is giving poor marks to the local school district and its attempts to help educators whose commutes have been disrupted by flooding.

Buses transporting teachers from Chilliwack to Abbotsford schools are taking up to 3 hours each way

A road inundated by floodwaters in Abbotsford on Tuesday. Highway closures have cut off teachers living in Chilliwack from schools in Abbotsford. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Abbotsford Teachers' Union is giving poor marks to the local school district and its attempts to help educators whose commutes have been disrupted by flooding.

About 100 teachers in Abbotsford live in neighbouring Chilliwack and can't currently drive to work as highways are closed to most traffic. The district has arranged for charter buses to drive these teachers to Abbotsford.

But union president Doug Smuland says the buses don't bring teachers directly to their schools. Instead, they have to make their own way from one of two drop-off points.

Smuland said the bussing means commutes of up to three hours each way. Commutes from Chilliwack to Abbotsford, absent road closures, might normally take 30 to 45 minutes.

"The teachers are not happy with the situation," Smuland said. "It cuts into not only a great deal of their professional time... but also their family hours."

Smuland wants to see Abbotsford schools temporarily staffed just with teachers who live in Abbotsford and Chilliwack schools staffed with teachers just from Chilliwack, with substitute teachers called on to help.

He said there were discussions over the weekend for such a plan but it didn't come together.

He also suggested putting the teachers living in Chilliwack on paid leave while the floods cut them off from their schools. As of now, he said, any payment for leave would need to be approved and it's not guaranteed that would happen.

The district said it is offering a variety of options to teachers affected by road closures.

The district said those options include five special leave days; virtual learning options; and reimbursement for hotels or other accommodation and meals for teachers who choose to remain in Abbotsford temporarily.

"We've remained committed to finding innovative ways that safely keep our schools open for our students," a statement from the district read.

"We are thankful to our employees who continue to show up every day for our students during these challenging times."

The district said ongoing paid leave could be approved by human resources.

With files from Anita Bathe and Ali Pitargue

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