Narang 'cautiously optimistic' school may start on time

Burnaby's school board chair is "cautiously optimistic" school will start on time despite the current teachers strike.

"That is encouraging news," said Baljinder Narang of reports that veteran mediator Vince Ready is now willing to wade into the dispute between the BC Teachers Federation and the provincial government.

"We're going along targeting school opening on Sept. 2nd as we would and we're hoping that, you know, it may not be perfect on the first day, but at least we'd be open."

If a contract settlement is reached and teachers ratify the deal, there will be some challenges since the regular end-of-school process didn't really happen after teachers went on a full-scale strike in mid-June, Narang said.

With no summer school some students may need to have their grade levels readjusted. Some schools will have new administrators and teachers who will need to get oriented to their new posts.

"There are a lot of systems that will need to be put together but I think we are aware of the challenges and we're trying to prepare ourselves to meet those challenges. Will it be perfect? I don't think so," she said. "Will [teachers returning to work] be good? I think it will be extremely good to have that happen."

Many details are still unknown, such as whether child care facilities located in schools will be open if the strike continues after Sept. 1.

"There is guarded optimism that the kind of movement that we are reading—and we've just read what's being presented in the media—that Vince Ready is considering this seriously, is a good sign. To draw more conclusions would be premature."

Narang noted parents in some media reports have set Aug. 27 as a deadline, that if the dispute isn't settled by then they believe the start of school will be delayed.

"I would be more optimistic than that," she said. "We are trying to get it as ready as we can so that even at the last minute we would be able to open up school. It won't be perfect but it would be open."

Just in case the first day back at school is not on Sept. 2, some organizations are putting together contingency plans for parents.

The YMCA of Greater Vancouver has started a waitlist for its "strike camps." They would be located at its four YMCA facilities in the region in case its school-based child cares, of which there are five in Burnaby, are not open. Call 604-939-9622 for more details.

And Burnaby Village Museum is offering day camps during the first two weeks of September if public schools are not in session.

They'll run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m with after camp care available until 4:30 p.m. for an extra charge. It's for ages six to 10. Cost is $130 for the four-day first week of Sept. 2 to 4, and $160 for Sept. 8 to 12. Info and registration: 604-297-4565.

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