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Pickets expected at local schools

Picket lines were expected to go up at targeted schools in the district Friday as the dispute between teachers and the B.C. government wages on.

Dave Harper, president of the Campbell River and District Teachers’ Association, said Thursday morning that teachers would picket Phoenix, Carihi, Penfield, Southgate, and Quadra Elementary schools. Pickets were also expected in front of Timberline but only along Rockland Road so as to not interfere with the Dogwood Street access to North Island College.

“Those specific schools were targeted because they provide the highest visibility in the community,” said Harper who noted that because Friday is not a paid teaching day, picket lines in front of all schools is not necessary.

On Thursday, Campbell River teachers travelled en masse to Liberal Minister Don McRae’s office in Courtenay to hand deliver letters to the province. The teachers then joined their Comox Valley counterparts for a rally down Courtenay’s 5th Street.

Meanwhile, with just days to go before the scheduled start of the school year on Sept. 2,  Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), and government negotiator Peter Cameron, met with mediator Vince Ready on Thursday.

However, there was no commitment to enter into mediation and the results of Thursday’s meeting were unavailable before the Mirror went to press.

Thursday’s meeting followed a get together Wednesday between B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender, Cameron and Iker.

Following that meeting, Fassbender suggested that the BCTF refrain from picketing and the government rescind its lockout of teachers while mediation, should it get underway, is ongoing to allow students to get back into their classrooms.

Iker, though, said teachers would have to hold a union vote before halting its strike.

Harper, meanwhile, said he’s hoping for “a miracle” but isn’t sure teachers are in a position to welcome kids back Sept. 2.

“It seems to me the likelihood of teachers being able to accept students Sept. 2 – well, we’re on thin ice here,” Harper said.

He said teachers typically put in between five and 10 sessions throughout the summer preparing their classrooms for the fall – all work that teachers have not been able to do.

There’s also the issue of having to work out class schedules for high school students, assign lockers and distribute text books.

“If there was a settlement today, teachers would have to go in tomorrow and work through the weekend and the holiday Monday,” Harper said.

“It would be a miracle to open Sept. 2 but we would try. Everybody needs to get the schools open.”

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