Potential teacher job action not off the table, BCTF says

WatchIn one week, students are scheduled to return to class in B.C. But potential job action is looming as thousands of families prepare for the first day of classes.

Students in B.C. are scheduled to return to class on Sept. 10, many for the first time in 179 days. But not all the issues involving B.C.’s back-to-school plan have been resolved.

The BC Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring said the union is not happy with the decisions made by the province.

“What we would have preferred to hear are more narrow guidelines about how the money should be used by school districts,” Mooring said.

On Thursday, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced school districts will decide where best to devote more than $242 million in federal funding to reopen British Columbia schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This funding will be used in different ways by different school districts based on what their priorities are for additional resources for COVID safety,” Fleming said at a news conference.

“It may be hiring additional teachers and supporting remote learning options where the need for that is great. It may be different in rural or remote communities where the emphasis might be on transportation.”

The federal money will be dispersed to school districts on a per pupil basis in two payments later this month and in January, he said. Fleming said the initial amount is $101.1 million in September and the second amount set for January is $121.8 million.

The BCTF is advocating for hybrid and remote options in every school district to help reduce class sizes and school density as well as protect students and staff members, or their family members, who are more vulnerable because of existing health concerns.

It wants the province to use the $242 million in federal funds to hire more teachers. If not, potential job action is not off the table.

“I shared my concerns with the ministry around the inequitable nature of not offering it everywhere.  The other issue with the remote learning that I’ve heard is that some districts are offering it for only a very short window of time, which is not appropriate, and some districts are telling families that their children will not have the full range of the curriculum,” Mooring said.

Fleming said during a meeting with Mooring Wednesday, he discussed how districts will determine how the money will be spent.

“Her interest was whether it can be used to hire more teachers.  I’ve been clear about that. That’s what many districts want to do with the funding. They need to do to support remote learning options and they will be doing,” Fleming said.

Teachers will return to class on Sept. 8 and 9 for orientation. Students are expected in class later next week.

READ MORE: 89 new cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C., no new cases in Island Health

With files from The Canadian Press

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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