(Front to back) Lisa Stewart chairs both the local Parent’s Advisory Committee (PAC) and the district PAC

(Front to back) Lisa Stewart chairs both the local Parent’s Advisory Committee (PAC) and the district PAC

Parents protest on-going school dispute

B.C. students take to social media to plan their own rally

Greater Trail parents stepped out in support of teachers Monday, rallying for a negotiated deal at various schools in the district.

A group joined teachers on the picket lines outside Rossland Summit School, Webster Elementary and Glenmerry Elementary schools holding signs of discontent and support.

At J.L. Crowe Secondary School, grandparents and parents of students stopped by to lend their support, and local firemen made rounds with water and sustenance for the picketers.

Honks from passing vehicles along the highway could be heard throughout the day, said Crowe teacher Terry Jones.

“We really appreciate the support and I would estimate over 95 per cent of the vehicles going by acknowledge us with a honk and a wave.”

Meanwhile, parents were hoping their protest gets a message across to the decision makers.

“I feel the government needs to know that parents not only support teachers but that we want them to start funding education more adequately,” said Rossland parent Shanna Tanabe, who organized the local rallies.

“The current funding is not working and the government needs to make education of our children a priority.”

The former executive member of the MacLean Parent Advisory Council is actively involved in her son Jesse’s education, volunteering in the classroom and lunch store occasionally, too.

She’s hoping the government will take note that their constituents are not pleased with the current education funding and wants teachers to know that they are not in this alone.

Students are also beginning to raise their voices after being caught in the middle of the dispute.

More than 10,000 people have RSVP’d to a Facebook event staging a provincewide student walkout in protest of being “caught in the middle” of British Columbia’s ongoing teachers’ dispute.

Students say they plan to leave their classes to rally outside starting 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the only day this week when unionized teachers are not holding rotating strike action.

Student and walkout organizer Victoria Barker says she’s mobilizing students to take their own stand rather than be used like pawns between two divorcing parents.

The 18 year old says she’s been affected by job action throughout her entire schooling history and she and others are angry and frustrated that both the government and teachers are willing to put their education in jeopardy.

Over the weekend, more than 100 parents gathered in Richmond, for the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils annual general meeting, where exasperation and rising fatigue were evident over hampered contract talks and the teachers’ jobs action.

“A parents’ strike? I don’t know. All I can say is the bear is stirring,” said Terry Berting, president of the confederation on Friday.

“We, deep down, are approaching a tipping point where perhaps parents are going to have to do something on our own if this doesn’t get settled soon.”

The conference kicked off with a keynote address from Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who told parents he’s committed to a resolution that’s good for everyone.

But he said a solution must be achieved within the reality of economic constraints.

“I stand before you believing that teachers deserve a raise, teachers deserve stability,” he said. “But you know what? Communities deserve that as well. And the government has a responsibility to taxpayers and finding that balance.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has demanded a four-year teacher contract with a 10.75 per cent wage increase, plus 2.75 per cent cost of living increase, a return to the class size and composition rules last seen in 2001, and an increase in the number of specialty teachers hired in B.C. districts.

With files from Sheri Regnier and Canadian Press