Penticton teachers back on picket lines

Picket lines going up again this week but, administrators confident they’ll be ready for students whenever the teachers’ dispute is settled.

Despite picket lines going up again at local schools this week, administrators are confident they’ll be ready for students whenever the teachers’ dispute is settled.

“We’re about as ready as we could be,” Okanagan Skaha School District superintendent Wendy Hyer said at a special board meeting Monday.

“It might not be totally pretty, but everybody will come and we’ll do the best we can to make sure we get started when the kids get (back). I think everybody’s anxious to get back to work.”

Hyer noted that work that was to be performed this week by support staff from the Canadian Union of Public Employees was scuttled because they won’t cross picket lines set up by teachers, meaning some maintenance projects and registration of new students won’t take place.

The president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union said the pickets are meant to bring the dispute back into public view with less than a week to go before the planned Sept. 2 start of the new school year.

“We just need to make the public aware that things aren’t settled yet,” said Leslea Woodward.  “And we want a deal and we want the public to be aware that we are still locked out since June 27.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is looking to a mediator to help reach a deal, but the B.C. government has said it won’t begin those talks until educators scale back their demands.

Woodward noted teachers, who have been without a contract since June 2013, have already made “significant moves” and are “ready to sit town with (government negotiators) at any time.”

She added that teachers are not picketing school-based daycares and parents should not be dissuaded from using those facilities.