Students set to head back to school

More labour certainty expected to greet the estimated 6,300 students returning to class Tuesday in the Okanagan Skaha School District

Mark Brett/Western News Principal Terry Grady (left) and vice principal Trevor Robinson of Princess Margaret Secondary School try to figure out just how everything will get done in time for the beginning of the school year Tuesday.

Mark Brett/Western News Principal Terry Grady (left) and vice principal Trevor Robinson of Princess Margaret Secondary School try to figure out just how everything will get done in time for the beginning of the school year Tuesday.

Students who aren’t excited about waking up for school Tuesday can take heart: They’ll only have to do it 185 more times before their next summer vacation begins.

About 6,300 students are expected to return to local classrooms next week in the Okanagan Skaha School District for the first of 186 instructional days for the year, which will end June 27, 2013.

“I think we’re in a much better position than we were last September,” said superintendent Wendy Hyer.

Last September marked the beginning of teachers’ job action that included the withdrawal of some administrative and extra-curricular activities, and a three-day strike in March.

In late June, teachers agreed to a retroactive two-year contract that expires in June 2013 and included no wage increases or sought-after agreements on class size and composition. A Labour Relations Board ruling that same month determined teachers had the right to withdraw from voluntary activities like coaching, but not administrative duties like writing report cards.

“On a day-to-day basis, I think we have pretty good relationships with our teachers, however, there’s always some fallout,” Hyer said. “So we’ll have to work on refocusing and rebuilding those relationships.”

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Pryde agreed.

“We still feel the wound from all that was thrown at us last year,” she said. “It was a very difficult year for teachers.”

Contract negotiations will start up again in March, Pryde added, so the upcoming year is seen as simply a “reprieve” for teachers while the government is “going through the motions” until the provincial election in May. Her theory appeared to gain traction with Education Minister George Abbott’s announcement Thursday that he will non seek re-election and expects to be shuffled out of the portfolio soon.

In the meantime, teachers, who spent the week doing professional development activities, are “looking forward to good things happening,” Pryde said.

“The kids are in very good hands. They’ve got fabulous teachers here in our local and they’re going to have a great year.”

Outside of an improved labour-relations climate, superintendent Hyer is looking forward to formalizing a new threat-assessment protocol with some community partners and hearing local submissions to an advisory committee that is studying graduation requirements in the province.

Hyer is also hoping to see more parents get involved with their children’s education.

“I would encourage them at any time if they have questions that they’re going into the school and having conversations with their teachers and principals,” she said, “because our goal is to work together to ensure that their child has a positive educational experience.”

Across the province, a total of 534,691 full-time students are expected in public schools this year, down 6,000 from last year and 60,000 from a decade ago, according to statistics released by the Education Ministry.

Most local students are expected at school at their usual start time Tuesday for a half-day of instruction, before full-day learning begins Wednesday. Exceptions to the usual start times are posted on the district’s website.

After Tuesday, students can begin looking forward to their first break: a four-day long weekend begins Oct. 5, just 22 school days away.

 

Dates to remember for the 2012-13 school year

 

Sept. 4: Schools open

Oct. 5: Schools closed for professional development

Oct. 8: Schools closed for Thanksgiving Day

Oct. 19: Schools closed for professional development

Nov. 12: Schools closed for Remembrance Day observance

Dec. 21: Last day of school before winter vacation

Jan. 7: Schools reopen following winter vacation

Feb. 11: Schools closed for Family Day

March 15: Last day of school before spring/Easter break

April 2: Schools reopen following spring/Easter break

May 20: Schools closed for Victoria Day

June 27: Last day of school