Back to the books for Parksville Qualicum Beach students

Teachers vote today on tentative agreement with the province; local youth could be back in classrooms Wednesday

Teachers across the province are voting on a tentative six-year deal today that could end the long running strike within days, and local representatives are optimistic.

“I think it’s likely to pass, that’s my prediction,” said Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association president Debbie Morran. “Teachers are relieved and excited to be going back to class, but there are still lots of questions, people want to know the details.”

After marathon negotiations over the weekend, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation leadership is recommending the province’s 41,000 public school teachers ratify the six-year contract.

“This is wonderful news,” said District 69 superintendent Rollie Koop, who added there are still many details to work out regarding the return to class.

He said if teachers ratify the deal, local boards of education will hold special meetings to ratify the terms and a first day of school will be set provincially. This district will start a couple days later.

“As we have shared previously, the first two days that school is back in session will be without students in session so that staff can attend to transitional work associated with the reconfiguration of district schools,” Koop said in a news release.

The details of the agreement will not be made public until ratification is complete. The initial indications are that the teachers got less in salary than they were asking for, but the government will put more into class size and composition issues than they were offering.

Morran said the BCTF “bargaining team had a difficult job… but got us what we can live with.”

Premier Christy Clark said in a news conference the six-year agreement, the longest ever, is a historic one that will help “settle the outstanding grievances that are there, and that was a major step forward for both sides.”

Morran said the only thing historic about it was “how long it took, it could have happened in June if the government had negotiated.”

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Further complicating the start of school in District 69, a four-inch water pipe burst in the new Qualicum Beach Elementary on Saturday, pouring water across the entire first floor.

“Thanks to quick notice from a neighbour and a rapid response from staff and a local restoration company, damage to the facility was limited,” said Koop.

He said they are working with their insurance company and worked out a deal to get teachers into the school to assess the considerable damage done to boxes of teaching equipment and books sitting on the floors.

“There was already a lot of pent up emotion and concern, so that was a great moment of cooperation in the district,” he said.

Visit www.pqbnews.com and the district website (www.sd69.bc.ca) for the latest developments.