B.C. high school students started writing provincial exams this week, but a full-scale strike by teachers has ended classes for younger kids.
Following a failed weekend bargaining session, teachers on Tuesday began a full walkout after three weeks of rotating strikes.
“We feel we’ve done what we can,” said Leslea Woodward, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union.
“Teachers are feeling very disappointed, of course, that the proposals were not seriously considered.”
She noted the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association have more negotiations scheduled this week, so a deal is still possible.
“We’re not leaving the table,” Woodward said.
They’ll also not leave local picket lines to administer and mark provincial exams, since there are enough administrators in Okanagan Skaha to do the job, which was declared an essential service by the Labour Relations Board.
Teachers did agree, however, to maintain at least one picket-free entrance at each of the three high schools in Penticton and Summerland, and regular bus service will be available for secondary students through June 24.
Meanwhile, kids in elementary and middle schools were told Friday to take their personal belongings home with them, although Okanagan Skaha superintendent Wendy Hyer said facilities are still open just in case.
“Any student who would like to go into the school to retrieve their things may enter the school to do so,” she said via e-mail.
Teachers have been without a contract since June 2013. Their latest proposal was a five-year deal with an eight per cent wage increase and $5,000 signing bonus, while the counter-offer was a six-year agreement with a seven per cent pay hike and $1,200 signing bonus.