British Columbia

B.C. teachers' strike: parents search for alternate care

Parents throughout British Columbia began using a patchwork of childcare solutions, on what should have been the first day of school in the province.

The Y.M.C.A has offered 1,200 spaces for children at daycamps, which are now full in Metro Vancouver

6 year Marshall Jackson prepares to enter a Y.M.C.A day camp on what should have been his first day of Gr. 1. (Steve Lus/cbc)

Parents throughout British Columbia began using a patchwork of childcare solutions on Tuesday, on what should have been the first day of public school in the province.

Piper Jackson found a spot for his son in a day camp offered by the YMCA in Vancouver, one of 1,200 spots offered by the organization in locations from the Sunshine Coast to Chilliwack.

Jackson's son Marshall, who should have started Grade 1 today at a Vancouver elementary school, said he was disappointed. Meanwhile his father blames Premier Christy Clark for the protracted labour dispute.

"I means she's been legislating against the teachers for a decade now, and I think that it was inevitable that we would have such an acrimonious strike," Jackson said.

Jackson says though he'd rather his son was in school, he's pleased Marshall is enrolled at the YMCA, in a program that runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The YMCA's programs in Vancouver and Surrey are now full, and the only spots available are in Chilliwack and on the Sunshine Coast.

Community centres across the region are offering camps, but many have shorter hours, and day cares are also in high-demand.

Janos Stiasny, owner of Wise Owl Montessori Child Care, said spots in his daycare have filled right up because of the ongoing teachers' strike.

He said he normally gets more than 65 children but due to the strike his care centres are looking after about 90 kids in total and about 14 children remain on the wait-list.

$40-a-day to be paid to eligible caregivers

Talks between the government's bargainers and teachers fell apart over the weekend, dashing any hopes parents had that school would start as scheduled on Tuesday.

The impasse has forced many to seek alternate arrangements for childcare that would normally be provided by schools, and the spike in demand for daycare is proving challenging.

Even the province is stepping in to help with the burden.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced on Sunday parents of children aged 12 and under can start registering on a government site to receive $40 a day for childcare as the strike continues.

The website said payments will be made after the strike is over, but glitches marred its launch on Sunday, and the Ministry of Education said it is investigating.

Jim Iker, the president of BC Teachers' Federation, has been critical of the program, calling it a bribe at a recent union conference.

But Fassbender has defended the payments, saying the province has every right to distribute money saved from a strike according to parents' best interests.

The province's 41,000 public school teachers went on strike two weeks before the summer break started, booting half a million students out of class.

The sticking points are pay, class size, and the amount of support staff per class.

With files from Steve Lus and The Canadian Press


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