The Saanich School District and CUPE Local 441 have reached a tentative deal to end the ongoing labour dispute involving educational support workers.

The District says that the agreement includes a wage increase of up to 12.8 per cent over a three-year term for Educational Assistants.

“We are really excited the union agreed to support the agreement on the table right now, and their recommendation is for ratification,” said Dave Eberwein, School District 63 Superintendent.

“We are certainly hopeful that will be the case tomorrow afternoon, and our schools will continue to stay open.”

Both parties are glad they reached the tentative deal.

“It absolutely is a relief, and I am very proud to recommend this to the membership,” said CUPE 441 president Dean Coates.

“We can’t give details on the tentative agreement, until we present it to our membership, but I am please to present it to them and I am pleased to recommend it to them.”

Union members will vote on the agreement Sunday afternoon and school will be open Monday.

“Something unusual that we’ve done is we have agreed to take all picket lines down Monday… we thought the community needed to have that assurance that the schools would be open Monday,” said Coates.

But students have already lost valuable class time.

“The strike has been really difficult for families, with child care, with trying to find someone to watch your children,” said parent Carolyn Moeller.

“My personal struggle has been with the fact that my son is in grade 12, and I was really concerned whether he would get his credits to graduate.”

The district is assuring parents students will get back on track, the first step is canceling the Professional Development Day scheduled for this Friday, then adjusting class plans.

But Moeller, who is part of “Families Supporting CUPE 441” says all this could have been avoided.

“I strongly feel the district could have done more [earlier], could have done more sooner, that we shouldn’t have been in this situation so I’m happy it ended this way,” said Moeller.

The superintendent says it was an unfortunate situation they tried to avoid.

“I understand how frustrating this has been for people and how disruptive it’s been not only for our students and their families and our entire staff,” said Eberwein.

“This is not a position we wanted to be in, I certainly want to personally thank the community for their patience, as we were working diligently everyday to resolve this.”

There is still a possibility the agreement will be voted down… but both sides are optimistic it will pass.

The District says that schools will communicate with parents to confirm changes to important dates in the school year such as Term 1 completion, report cards, and semester changes. The District says this information will be coming in the next few days.

The dispute had closed schools for three weeks beginning on Oct. 28.

Julian Kolsut and Tim Ford