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LRB urged to make exams, grades essential in full teachers strike

B.C. Premier Christy Clark was questioned by reporters Friday in Pitt Meadows, where she made an appearance at a community celebration. - Monisha Martins / Black Press
B.C. Premier Christy Clark was questioned by reporters Friday in Pitt Meadows, where she made an appearance at a community celebration.
— image credit: Monisha Martins / Black Press

The province wants completion of secondary school exams and report cards declared an essential service to protect students in the ongoing B.C. teachers strike.

The application to extend essential services and avoid "serious and immediate damage" to students was filed Friday with the Labour Relations Board by the B.C. Public School Employers Association.

The proposed widening of the existing essential services order so Grade 10 to 12 students can finish the school year and get their final grades would only apply if the B.C. Teachers Federation escalates to a full strike from one-day-a-week rotating strikes in each district.

Teachers are voting Monday and Tuesday on a move to a full strike, which could come as soon as June 16.

RELATED: BCTF rotating strike schedule for June 10-13

The requested order would cover not just teachers but support staff represented by CUPE and other unions that would not cross teachers' picket lines.

That would also ensure new special needs students are designated and payroll processing continues.

The request covers all services needed to prepare, run and mark all provincial and school-based exams as well as compile and enter final grades.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender had previously insisted – without explanation – that exams and final grading would not be disrupted.

The application says failure to deliver final grades would leave graduating students ineligible for scholarships and potentially unable to apply to post-secondary institutions or employers.

"Depriving Grade 12 students of post-secondary opportunities which may not be replaceable would clearly threaten the welfare of these students."

Grade 10 and 11 grades are also needed for access to bursaries or scholarships and appropriate placement in the next year's classes, it said.

The BCTF has warned its members that its strike pay fund is virtually empty.

Teachers have already been subject to a 10 per cent pay cut as a result of a partial lockout restricting their hours that was imposed by school employers and upheld Wednesday by the LRB.

Premier Christy Clark, questioned by Black Press in Pitt Meadows Friday, said she first wants a settlement on wage increases for teachers ahead of further consideration of changes to class size and composition.

"Teachers deserve a raise too," Clark said. "I think we can get there. But we have to decide we're going to roll up our sleeves, be serious about bargaining and decide that there is a will to get this done without putting kids in the middle of the fight."

– with files from Monisha Martins

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