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Saanich students march on – with or without teachers

Rotating strikes by public school teachers are taking their toll on Saanich kids, and the students are now taking action of their own.

Some protested Wednesday by walking out of class with pickets, saying they don’t want to be caught in the middle of the back-and-forth between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and provincial government. The walkout  took place at schools provincewide, including at Mount Douglas and Claremont secondary schools in Saanich.

Other students are carrying ahead with extra-curricular events that would have otherwise been led by a teacher, such as Reynolds secondary school’s band marching in this weekend’s Oak Bay Tea Party parade.

“The rotating strikes and limited extracurricular programs have affected high schools the most,” said John Bird, President of the Victoria Confederation of Parental Advisory Councils.

The strike has put band instructors, such as Reynolds secondary’s Dave Flello, in a precarious position. Band students are graded on performances – essentially their final exams – which happen outside of school time. It means band teachers participate in “core” concerts, but not the extra-curricular shows.

That means Reynolds has been forced to cancel some, but not all, of its concerts. The school considered cancelling its participation at this weekend’s Oak Bay Tea Party. Instead, the students will march on – alone.

“It should be pretty self explanatory (for the band members): the drill team, and the band for that matter, are well organized. The drill team will lead and the band will follow,” said Charles Kierulf, president of the Reynolds band parents executive.

As much as parents want to support the teachers’ union, Bird says there’s also a general feeling that the disruption has gone on long enough and should be wrapped up.

“Some parents are frustrated with the amount of things that have been put off or cancelled,” he added.

B.C. Labour Relations Board vice-chair Richard Longpre dismissed the BCTF’s appeal of a 10 per cent pay cut in response to rotating strikes. He accepted that it reflects the reduction in work due to the BCTF’s refusal to perform supervision and communications with management during the dispute.

In response, the BCTF will hold another vote June 9-10 to authorize full-scale strike action. Rotating strikes are to continue next week while the strike vote is held and counted. BCTF president Jim Iker said a full-scale strike “within the next two weeks,” if approved.

- with files from Tom Fletcher

reporter@saanichnews.com

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