Back to school as usual for some Greater Trail students

St. Michael’s Catholic school in Trail and Rossland’s alternative school set to start classes on Sept. 2

Public school students still don’t know when they are heading back to the classroom, but some students have their backpacks packed and are getting to ready to learn.

St. Michael’s Catholic School in Trail is starting its school year as usual, on Sept. 2 and principal Julia Mason says she has gotten a few phone calls from parents over the summer, some asking about registration.

“I think that (parents) are just worried about the unknown,” she said about the ongoing labour dispute between public school teachers and the provincial government.

“Lots of the phone calls that we have been getting started at the end of the school year and I think that people have always thought of our school and just want a change. Some of it is, I believe, (about the strike).”

St. Michael’s is classified, by the Ministry of Education, as a Group 1 Independent School. Teachers don’t have contracts with the government, but rather with the school itself.

“We are not affiliated with any union,” said Mason.

“Our staff signs contracts every year.”

Because of the school’s classification, the school does not strictly rely on the provincial government for funding, but rather, looks towards tuition fees, donations, fundraising, parish subsidies and bequests.

According to St. Michael’s website, the government funds 50 per cent of the “per pupil operating cost of the local school district” and there is no funding for “capital expenditures.”

The Seven Summits Centre for Learning, an alternative school in Rossland, is also heading back to the classroom next week and Operations Manager Ann Quarterman says all is business as usual at the centre.

“We’ve been working all throughout the summer and the mentors, which is what we call our teachers, are planning and setting up courses,” she said.

“We will have a full day on Sept. 2.”

Unlike the Catholic school, Seven Summits hires its mentors through a third party, the SelfDesign Learning Company.

“We partner with SelfDesign,” said Quarterman. “They are education providers and they do all the contracts with the mentors on a yearly basis.”

While SelfDesign is funded by the B.C. government, its mentors are not part of the teachers union and are unaffected by the current strike.

Registration for Seven Summits has been full for the fall since the end of the 2013/2014 school year and Quarterman says she thinks that is why the centre hasn’t received any extra phone calls from parents looking to sign their kids up.

“We have been full all summer, and I think that people know that,” she said, adding that a few spots have become available, despite full registration since June. “We do have a few spots that have opened up because our international spots didn’t fill up. Now we have three spots left.”

Public school teachers with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation have been on strike and locked out since mid-June and it is unknown if teachers will be back in the classroom for a September start.

Teachers have returned to the picket linesliz this week, the week before school is supposed to start, in hopes of pressuring the government into talks to end the strike.

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