As August marches on with sunshine and heat, parents would normally be starting to eye back-to-school sales and new backpacks.
Unless serious progress is made on the B.C. teachers’ dispute with the province, and soon, students’ summer holidays may be extended a lot further than expected.
“Lots of people I’ve talked to have already said they’re anticipating the teachers won’t be back until October,” said Lucy-Ann Smith, owner and operator of Happy Campers Childcare.
Happy Campers has 12 centres all through Greater Victoria and takes care of 450 to 500 children each day.
Most out-of-school care centres will continue with what they call “strike camps,” said Smith, something they started in June when the teachers’ strike first took effect. Strike camps offer full-day care for parents who have to work and although the government has promised to subsidize parents with $40 per day for each child under-13 to help cover the extra costs, the allowance isn’t going to fix all the headaches parents have been dealing with.
A lot of care centres hire university students for the summer’s influx of kids, said Smith, and come September, they all go back to school. Centres could be left short-staffed and ill-equipped to handle the higher demands for care.
That’s the case with the View Royal Out of School Care Society, said operations manager Leeann Lindberg.
“Most of our staff are university students,” she said. “It’s a matter of seeing if we have enough staff.”
Lindberg said they’re in a particularly sticky situation, because even though they’re not attached to View Royal elementary, the care centre and pre-school is still on the school grounds.
“If the union doesn’t picket the parking lot, then we’re able to stay open,” said Lindberg. But even though the union has been “really good” about letting the centre stay open, the centre still rents a classroom from the school that would be off-limits should the strike continue.
“It’s going to limit the number of children that can attend with us,” Lindberg said.
From staffing challenges and extra costs to scheduling full-day care, to the potential for lost income and the disruption to students, parents and care centres have been hit hard by the teachers’ strike.
And if the rumour mill is true, come September, there may still be a ways to go.