School district 20: Track meet another casualty of labour dispute

The Elementary School Track Meet scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday at Haley Park was officially scuttled.

School District 20 and the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union (KCTU) played another frustrating game of tit-for-tat on Monday, cancelling one of the longest running events in Greater Trail’s school history.

In a letter to parents, SD 20 superintendent Greg Luterback announced that the Elementary School Track Meet scheduled for today and Thursday at Haley Park was officially scuttled.

“Unfortunately, due to the ongoing labour dispute, I am unable to ensure that the event can run safely and with the appropriate supervision and supports in place for students,” wrote Luterback.

A week ago, track meet organizers confirmed that the event was on as scheduled with additional volunteers recruited from J. L. Crowe students to help set up the track, and an adjusted schedule so the meet could wrap up 15 minutes earlier to remain within the parameters of the labour dispute.

However, in a meeting on Monday KCTU president Andrew Davidoff and Luterback couldn’t reach an agreement on how to proceed with the event.

“If it was workable the superintendent and I would have worked it out,” said Davidoff. “There are too many variables . . . We had no problem with the district track meet and then they (the BC government)  imposed the partial lockout that caused chaos across this province. And that’s when things started to go south at these events so you can place the blame at the feet of Christy Clark and her government.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has been struggling with the unprecedented and seemingly arbitrary nature of the “partial lockout,” and whether teachers will be covered by workers’ compensation provisions if engaged in extra-curricular activities.

On Monday, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he wanted to correct the “misinformation,” explaining that any teacher at any activity will be covered by workers’ compensation provisions,

Allegations that WorkSafe BC would not cover any such school-sponsored voluntary or extracurricular activities are “absolutely not true,” said the minister.

Regardless, Davidoff says the teachers’ union has yet to receive clarification or a “letter of comfort” from WorkSafe BC or the Schools Protection Branch on whether teachers are covered during activities outside of school while the partial lockout is in effect.

Until then, all activities remain on hold.

“Everything in our district, all field trips, everything else, as far as I know, there is virtually nothing going on. The track meet is one issue of a multitude of issues we’re trying to cope with,” added Davidoff.

Last year about 250 students from eight schools participated in the SD 20 Elementary School Track Meet and a similar number was expected this year. Just how many years the track meet has been hitting the track at Haley Park is uncertain, but retired Fruitvale Elementary School teacher Dave Brewer recalls statistics of track records dating back to 1946.

Brewer was also a coach and the official starter for 34 of the events and remembers only two other cancellations during his tenure; one due to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 and the other caused by a labour disruption.

“The thing is the students have been probably training at lunch time, during P.E. Classes, and so forth, and many are going to miss it,” says Brewer. “The Grade 7s, this is their final year and they’re not going to have a chance to do it. Unless the parents come through and run the track meet, they’ll miss out on their final year of the elementary school meet, because many of them won’t do track at the high school.”

The event has been a favourite among students for almost 70 years, with fun and fitness being the focus for all Greater Trail elementary schools.

A parent group is now planning to run the event the following week, under the auspices of the Trail Track and Field Club and BC Athletics.

“There won’t be any teachers running it, it will be only parents,” said Track Club coach Dan Horan.

Luterback says a parents-group initiative to run the track meet would have to be done without the support of School District 20 and that the community and parents should be made aware of that.

What the most recent round of walk outs and lock outs will accomplish remains to be seen; the only casualty this week is the elementary school track meet, but stay tuned, more will undoubtedly follow.

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