By Dan Walton
Parents and students of B.C. are managing to occupy the unexpected free time thats come as a result of the B.C. teachers strike by making alternative arrangements to the regular school year.
The younger students dont seem to be struggling as the kids camp offered through the College of the Rockies Invermere a non-instructional weekday program for kids as a response to the situation only garnered limited interest, said Invermere campus manager Doug Clovechok.
It was an opportunity for parents to get their kids involved with other activities, he said. Parents found other arrangements.
Cody Krebs, who was supposed to begin Grade 7 at J.A. Laird this month, said hes been spending most of his free time in the day at the skatepark, and heading to the Summit Youth Centre on the evenings that its open. But while making the best of the situation, Codys not happy to be out of school.
Its ruining learning for us, he said. Id rather be in school learning now than have an extra two months of school later.
Codys twin sister, Geri Krebs, also wants school back in session, but said that to keep from falling behind, their mom has them doingexercises for reading, math, and spelling each night after dinner.
Sheldon Clowers, who is also supposed to be in Grade 7, feels differently about the strike: Its fun and I hope that the strike goes on until October.
And while keeping himself busy around the valley during the strike, Sheldon said that respect is the topic hes learned most about by spending his weekdays outside of school.
Some older students have begun to form study groups in Invermere. Allowing them space to make it possible, the College of the Rockies is opening their doors three times a week for personal academic instruction, according to local parent Hilda Jensen. The program is primarily for Grade 10, 11 and 12 students, and because the college is under the same roof as the high school which administrative staff are keeping open students have full access to all of the schools textbooks.
Theyll bring their books to the study sessions and brainstorm with their peers and decide which subjects theyd like to study, said Mrs. Jensen. The study groups were arranged after she and about a dozen other parents met to discuss mitigating the impact of the strike.
Any interested students can drop into a session, which happen Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesdays between 1 and 3 p.m., and Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon.
Responding to a question at a local teachers rally last week, Doug Murray, president of the Windermere Teachers Association, said he hasnt heard of any students travelling to Alberta for public education where its business as usual. Greg Constable, who teaches band at David Thompson Secondary School, said that in the late 1980s, the roles were reversed when Albertas teachers went on strike and the local schools were overflowing with Albertans.
Now-retired teacher Anne Picton recalls that strike, and said her class was packed with 35 to 40 students. Mrs. Picton said she was able to adapt her teaching technique to the occasion, but compromises had to be made.
Im an old fashioned teacher. When I started teaching, it was normal to have classes that size, she said. But youll lose kids at the lower end who need extra help, and the the kids on the higher end who need extra challenges.
She remembers that particular strike concluding by the end of September of that year.
Mrs. Picton, who retired from teaching in 1998, said there were three teaching strikes during her career, and she only supported one of them.
For two [teacher strikes] I crossed the picket line and went into school because I didnt support what they were fighting for, she said. It was very difficult crossing the picket line; its a small place and everybody striking is your friend.
But if she were still teaching today, shed be participating in the current strike action.
I dont think that the teachers have a whole lot of choice at the moment. They took a stand and said enough is enough. Some of our teachers are earning less than they did four years ago for the same job, she said. [B.C.] teachers could move to Alberta and get almost $20,000 more per year to do the same job.