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Teachers' strike in Parksville Qualicum Beach: daycares not under pressure

It's unclear to some of the experts where the 4,500 District 69 students not going back to class today are headed.

"We thought the phone would be ringing off the hook, we made sure we had enough staff on hand," said Margret Sinclair, program manager for PacificCare, a government-funded resource and referral agency which has more than 30 daycares registered in District 69.

Instead, she said, they haven't seen much increase above their usual September increase.

She said anecdotally it sounds like daycares are busy, and while there isn't usually a lot of excess space at this time of year, things can change a lot very quickly and numbers are hard to monitor.

Similarly the district's only two non-school district run schools haven't seen much change.

Sandi Courtorielle, manager of the Grade 1 to 8 Morning Glory Waldorf school in Hilliers, said there has been an increase in inquiries over the summer, but that hasn't translated into more registrations.

She said still have a few spaces, but the fact that they ask for a commitment at least until December turns some people away, with some admitting they are just looking for a temporary placement until the strike ends.

Similarly Cynthia Dyer at Discover Montessori in Errington said they have received a lot of phone calls, but they do their registration in the early spring and are already full.

Meanwhile district staff is making it clear schools will not be open, as superintendent Rollie Koop put it in a news release: "For safety reasons, I ask that parents keep their children home from classes effective Tuesday, September 2, and on a go forward basis until a settlement is reached or the full withdrawal of teaching services comes to an end."

He added that busses will not be running and community activities have been suspended in schools. The board office in downtown Parksville is open for new student registrations and bus pass applications.

The Regional District of Nanaimo parks and recreation department is again offering their Big Adventure day camp at Oceanside Place. For $31.50 a day students 12 and under can attend from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for games, arts and crafts, skating, trips to parks and more.

The pool and rink will have scheduled public swim and skate times. For more information, or to register visit www.rdn.bc.ca and click on Oceanside Place near the top, call 250-248-3252 or stop by the arena or Ravensong Aquatic Centre. Refunds will be given if the strike ends.

Other community initiatives are popping up, like the parents and their children who are gathering at the Lighthouse Community Hall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. school days as long as the strike continues. It's not a day care, organizers stress, but a place for parents and children to get together and do some educational activities.

While there have been reports elsewhere of teachers offering day care or day-time tutoring services, Mount Arrowsmith Teacher's Association president Debbie Morran said she hasn't heard of that happening here and points out that they have passed on the BCTF's recommendation against it.

"We would caution members that if they want to keep pressure on the government, they can't pitch in and relieve the parents," she said, adding that the union would consider it struck work, like crossing the picket lines.

Meanwhile the much anticipated involvement of veteran mediator Vince Ready appears to have been short lived and as of Wednesday there were no talks scheduled. On Tuesday, Premier Christy Clark said the government would stand firm on their position and the teacher's union has said the same.

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