Surrey Schools: Anxious and ready to go

School opening hinges on ratification vote, 'Pro-D' day discussion says Surrey School District, ready to welcome back students, staff.

Surrey’s 70,000 public school students could be heading back to class as soon as Monday morning, following the announcement Tuesday of an agreement to end the lengthy B.C. teachers strike.

Apparently it’s a six-year deal, giving five years of labour peace with teachers going forward.

“As a district, we’re anxious and ready to go,” Surrey School District communications manager Doug Strachan said a few hours after a tentative deal was struck, paving the way for Thursday’s expected ratification vote by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. “We’re excited and happy to hear the news.”

Details of the tentative deal are being withheld until the BCTF and the province’s negotiators have a final document to present.

“We have to wait as everybody does to see the processes unfold,” Strachan said. “We look forward to having everybody back.”

Next Monday (Sept. 22), is a non-instructional day in Surrey, according to the district calendar, throwing up another question mark.

“We will look at the potential to move that date, if it’s called for, in conjunction with our teachers’ local, but of course we are waiting to see if there is anything addressed in the agreement regarding opening day,” Strachan said.

He advised parents and students to monitor the news media, and to check with the Surrey School District’s website, SurreySchools.ca, where bulletins have been posted throughout the strike.

“A resolution at the bargaining table is by far the best outcome for public education in British Columbia and this is great news,” Surrey Schools Superintendent Jordan Tinney said Tuesday in a letter to parents, congratulating bargaining teams on both sides and mediator Vince Ready.

“We now turn our minds to the details of opening our sites and welcoming our teachers, support staff and children back to school,” Tinney said.

With a ratification vote of 40,000 union members expected to be held Thursday, the province’s 60 school districts are attempting to return to regular classes next week after five weeks of full-scale strike action that began last June.

Premier Christy Clark said if the vote passes, schools will be up and running again as early as Monday. She thanked parents for their patience as the strike dragged into the fall.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender has said a plan will be developed to make up missed instructional days, which could involve rescheduling Christmas and spring break.

“This is wonderful news for the students, teachers, administrators, support staff, trustees and parents in B.C.,” said B.C. School Trustees’ Association president Teresa Rezansoff.

“The immediate goal is to get students back in classes as quickly as possible.”

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association was seeking a six-year agreement with wage increases of just over one per cent per year, in line with other settlements in the provincial public service.

A fund to address class size and composition has been a key issue in the dispute.

– With files Black Press

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