KELOWNA, B.C. – Finn Stackhouse is getting a lesson in ‘Activism 101’ as he pounds the pavement with Central Okanagan teachers.
The 9-year-old student doesn’t have a daycare spot so has to spend the day with his dad’s girlfriend, teacher Hilde Dietzel.
“We don’t have childcare either, so we’re bringing our kids with us to the picket line,” says Dietzel. “We’re scrambling just like parents are. We are parents.”
Stackhouse sympathizes with teachers, “because they have too many people in their class.” He carries his own hand-made sign of support.
High school students are also at school this week, but only for Provincial exams, deemed an essential service during the strike.
Feelings ranged from casual to awkward as students crossed picket lines.
“I wasn’t sure to just ignore them or just say hi,” said one grade 10 KSS student as she left her math exam.
“I know for our students, it’s unusual to be coming into a school and still seeing, at least in the vicinity, anyways, teachers on a picket line,” says School District #23 Superintendent Hugh Gloster. “I think for the most part students are responding quite well. We typically know which students struggle with anxiety related issues and try to support them as best we can. But it is an unfamiliar situation for many.”
Teachers hope students feel comfortable approaching them on the picket line and parents are at ease discussing the strike with their children.
“To try and hide that its happening is going to hide that anxiety inside,” says Karen Bernath, Central Okanagan teacher. “They need to talk them out and have their kids understand as best they can.”
The Central Okanagan Teachers Association (COTA) has initiated a teacher food drive and hardship fund to assist those on the picket lines, both CUPE and BCTF members, during the strike.
“Members are donating strike pay,” says Susan Bauhart, COTA President. “There were three days of strike pay. Some are donating just money and some are donating foods items for members to take. There’s no questions asked.”
Bauhart says news of face to face negotiations with the province are encouraging with hope of finding a resolution quickly.