Normally, the start of a new school year is cause for celebration for most parents. However, it isn't often that students go back to school with a labour dispute hanging over the heads of their instructors, but that's what's happening for the 2012-2013 year.
Coming off the heels of a school year that included job action, teacher protests and many heated back-and-forths between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government, the new school year will not be threatened by potential teacher strikes due to Bill 22.
The bill was introduced as a means to temporarily end the labour dispute back in March and extended the current contract with teachers to Summer 2013. Bargaining is expected to resume in spring 2013.
But while the contract may have been extended a year, Jennifer Wadge, president of the Surrey Teachers' Association said this year is going to be different for teachers.
"I think that the thing for this year is that teachers are coming back to school with some mixed feelings," said Wadge.
"Obviously they're looking forward to coming back to school and doing what they love," said Wadge. "But at the same time there's still a sense that teachers feel under attack by this government."
According to Wadge, while teachers will not be taking any job action, it is still up to their discretion to decide how much afterhours time they're willing to give, which includes extracurricular activities.
"It will not be the same as last September where kids were affected by an intense job action," said Wadge, "but I think the focus we're going to be taking this year is really about encouraging teachers to think about their work/life balance and how much of their job they need to complete as required by the district and where they can say that it's time for me and my family."
In a teleconference the week before school started, Education Minister George Abbott said the upcoming school year would be different for parents and teachers, but remained hopeful that things would remain positive.
"Twelve months ago we were just seeing the start of phase one job action which tended to colour the rest of the school year and had an impact on a variety of our activities," said Abbott. "I'm hoping this year gives us the opportunity to build at least a little better of a relationship between government and the teacher's federation."
When asked if he had any concerns about how the bargaining may be when it comes back up again next year, Abbott admitted it would be difficult, but he remained optimistic a solution could be found.
And while some have been critical about how the teachers have approached the labour dispute, Wadge would like people to see just how invested teachers are in their jobs before questioning their motivation.
"One thing I would encourage parents to talk to teachers about is what items in the classroom have been provided for by the ministry and the (school) district and what items have been provided for by teachers out of their own pockets," said Wadge.
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