Many happy returns as kids back in classroom

The first day of school came three weeks late this year, but many say it’s better late than neve

The first day of school came three weeks late this year, but many say it’s better late than never.

“People are so excited to be back to school and work,” said Sherri Bell, superintendent of the Greater Victoria school district. Last week, B.C. teachers voted 86 per cent in favour of ending their strike and accepting a six-year agreement negotiated with the help of mediator Vince Ready.

“I’m happy with this deal,” said BCTF president Jim Iker. The deal gives the province’s teachers raises totalling 7.25 per cent over six years, improvements to benefits and a fund to hire hundreds of new teachers each year.

About three out of four of the province’s 40,000 teachers voted. Iker said the voter turnout was higher than the union’s last two ratification votes.

Bell said many teachers were in schools on Friday and over the weekend preparing for the first week of school. The school board will not know how many students showed up on Monday until later this week when the count is finalized by office staff at each school.

Iker said the ministry has notified superintendents that the school year will not be extended to make up the days lost to the strike.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender congratulated teachers on the settlement.

“We can now focus on the path forward,” said Fassbender. “This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students – to enhance their education experience and to support their achievements.”

The finance ministry is preparing to send out compensation of $40 per lost student day to parents of students up to age 12. One-time payments are expected to be sent out in October to eligible parents who registered at bcparentsinfo.ca.