Students and teachers are back in class this week, attempting to get up to speed after starting school three weeks later than scheduled.
For kids and teens, it meant dusting off the backpacks and getting into the routine of early wake-ups and packing lunches, as well as clearing the cranial cobwebs after a three-month vacation.
The clamber began a few days earlier for teachers, who were able to finally enter their classrooms Friday. For some, it was the first time since June, while others stepped foot into new schools and classrooms for the first time ever.
Sandra Succamore, a Grade 3 teacher at Surrey’s Sullivan Elementary, considered herself one of the lucky ones, returning to work in the same classroom and teaching the same grade she did last year.
“I’m one of the more fortunate teachers,” said Succamore. “I’m not moving schools.“
Still, she said, it looked as though a bomb had gone off in her classroom.
Because the school year ended so abruptly when teachers went on strike in June, classrooms were not organized and sorted as they normally would have been prior to the summer break. And furniture and supplies were further shuffled to make way for the usual floor cleaning while kids were away.
As well, teachers usually spend at least a week or two at the end of August preparing their classrooms and creating a welcome educational space for the year ahead.
“Even though you’re planning all summer, we couldn’t get in our rooms,” Succamore said. “I’m trying to do what I do in two weeks, in three days. We’re all pretty much scrambling.“
On Thursday, B.C. teachers voted strongly in favour of ending their strike, with 86 per cent in favour of a six-year agreement negotiated with the help of mediator Vince Ready last week. The deal gives teachers raises totalling 7.25 per cent over six years, improvements to benefits and a fund to hire more teachers each year. It also includes a mutually agreed-upon process to address any future court decision, with the government’s appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision on class size and composition set to be heard in October.
In a letter to Surrey parents on Friday, Supt. Jordan Tinney said hearing the deal was ratified was “music to his ears.“
He said school staff will now begin the process of starting the year with the same professionalism, care and support that students have always received.
“We are proud of the work of our staff and we know your children will be well cared for,” wrote Tinney. “We have missed them.“
He also thanked parents for their patience and support through what he called a “long journey” that included many sacrifices since teacher job action began April 23, escalating to a full strike that closed schools early at the end of June.
Though Education Minister Peter Fassbender had indicated missed instructional time might be made up, the ministry has now notified superintendents that the school year will not be extended to make up the days lost.
Surrey’s early figures show about 70,200 students will be entering public schools this fall – an increase of about 120 from last year.
In Delta, where student numbers have been steadily declining in recent years, early enrolment projections indicated a modest increase this year, with roughly 15,500 students in elementary and high school classrooms.
– with files from Tom Fletcher