BCTF negotiations continue, SD46 ready for new school year

Mediated talks between the province and teachers’ union continue, but job action seems unlikely as students prepare to return to school Sept. 3.

“Sunshine Coast teachers are excited to be back in their classrooms in September to greet their students. It would be premature at this time to speculate on strike action,” said Jacquie Shelemey, president of the Sunshine Coast Teachers' Association.

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Richard Overgaard, a spokesperson for the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) told Coast Reporter on Monday that “a vote on any sort of job action has not been called.”

The union has been without a collective agreement since the previous one expired last June. Bargaining has been underway since February, and the mediated talks that resumed Aug. 21 were expected to continue to the end of this week.

Discussions have focused on class size and composition, guaranteed support for students with special needs, and the addition of more specialist teachers, according to the BCTF.

Meanwhile, as part of School District No. 46’s (SD46) preparations for the school year, a new policy will see SD46 pay for school supplies such as pencils, paper and notebooks for all students.

“We want our education system to be completely open and welcoming to everyone and that’s a change for this year,” said Superintendent Patrick Bocking, who said supplies will be directly purchased by schools from vendors. “There’s no need for families to purchase school supplies,” said Bocking. “We’re on it.”

Curriculum changes are also coming for Grade 11 and 12 students this year, the last cohorts to be affected by the province’s rollout of the curriculum, which began in 2016. New Indigenous learning resources have been added, as have two mandatory career education courses. Grade 10 students will be writing a mandatory graduation assessment in literacy for the first time this year, and a similar Grade 12 literacy assessment is expected to be introduced in the 2020/2021 school year.

The number of students enrolling at SD46 has increased slightly to an estimated 3,281, about 25 more students than last year. Enrolment estimates are typically conservative, and the numbers will be finalized in October. Increases in the student population mean the addition of one portable at Gibsons Elementary. Portables were also added last school year at West Sechelt Elementary.

Other upgrades and fixes across the district include the installation of a new synthetic gym floor at Roberts Creek Elementary School and recoated hardwood gym floors at Elphinstone and Chatelech high schools and Cedar Grove Elementary School and the installation of new flooring at a number of schools. Wood shop dust collection systems were replaced at Elphinstone and Chatelech, and at the Sechelt Learning Centre, a girls washroom was renovated and the building’s exterior was repainted. Two new furnaces were added at École du Pacifique.

At the Board of Education, chair Pammila Ruth said the implementation of the new strategic plan, which was adopted by the board last June, is expected in the coming months. “The strategic plan has been an intensive collaboration with our staff, students, parents, community members and the board for many months now,” said Ruth.

The school district will also be getting a new website, which was expected to launch Aug. 28.

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