Some teachers ‘couch surfing’ in Port Alberni due to Highway 4 closure

Some teachers 'couch surfing' in Port Alberni due to Highway 4 closure
Photo: Kiara Collinge
SD70 Pacific Rim office.

Due to the ongoing Highway 4 closure, some teachers who live outside Port Alberni but work there have been left stranded.

Teachers living in areas such as Parksville and Qualicum Beach found themselves in a challenging situation of being unable to return home.

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Ryan Dvorak, local president of the Alberni District Teachers’ Union, says about 10 staff members were given only two working days’ notice to make other arrangements to continue working the following week.

“On Friday, teachers were given notice that they were expected to return to work on Monday,” said Dvorak in an interview with CHEK News.

“At the time, we didn’t know what we were figuring out because teachers had no idea how long the highway closure would last.”

Dvorak says some staff are staying with friends to make it to work every day, whereas others cannot stay in Port Alberni because their young families back home need care outside of work hours.

“It’s impossible. It’s not like you can pack up your kids in two days and move to Port Alberni and expect that to work,” added Dvorak.

School District 70 Pacific Rim superintendent Tim Davie says the district is not responsible for compensating staff members showing up to work.

“We are not providing compensation for teachers to come and perform their job duties. Teachers that are choosing to live on the other side of the affected area, that’s a teacher and CUPE’s staff choice,” said Davie.

He says the district won’t use operational dollars meant for students to pay teachers extra. Additionally, he says teachers can take leave without pay if they cannot come to work.

B.C.’s Ministry of Education tells CHEK News it’s maintaining an open line of communication with SD70 and that any further comment on the situation should come from the district.

Dvorak says he’s disappointed there has been no provincial help. He says the teacher’s association is exploring monetary support options to help their members who have been displaced.

Highway 4 has been fully closed since June 6, but it’s expected to reopen to single-lane traffic this weekend.

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