Opinion

BC teachers strike: How families are suffering

As kids in other provinces prepare for back-to-school, families in BC struggle to cope with the ongoing teachers strike.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Every time an ad comes on the radio or TV for back-to-school this or back-to-school that, I’m painfully reminded about the teacher’s strike in British Columbia. It’s highly unlikely that my kids will be returning to school next week, with many parents concerned the ongoing dispute in BC between the teachers and government will continue well into October. Cue mass hysteria and stress for BC families. Who would have thought that the jealousy one feels when seeing a friend’s stunning vacation photos would one day extend to envy around back-to-school pictures showing up on your Facebook feed from loved ones living in other provinces?

Read more: Your ultimate back-to-school guide>

Every conversation I have with parents of school-aged kids these days revolves around “What are your plans if school doesn’t go back?” People have cobbled together all sorts of ingenious solutions—after all, parents are nothing if not resourceful—involving groups of moms and dads banding together to “share” kids on different days, calling extended family to pitch in, looking into camps and programs, and the list goes on. Heck, one working mom I know is reviewing the BC curriculum requirements as she’s planning to tackle homeschooling until school’s back in session. These solutions are sustainable (albeit stressful) in the short term, but if the dispute drags on into October, as many seem to think, the situation is going to put a lot of pressure on families, businesses and the economy.

Check out the Strike Camps listing on YoYo Mama>

What’s often ignored in all this is how the kids feel about it. My two kids, who are going into grades three and six, are devastated. They want to see their friends and their teachers and get back into the routine of being in school—they’re a bit sick of us and we’re ready for them to be learning again. Because how can missing (possibly) months of school not affect them? And mine are only in elementary school! I feel for high schoolers who can’t afford to miss much time with graduation looming. And then there are eager kindergartners. How do you prep your excited five-year-old for starting school when you can’t even attach a timeline to it?

Read more: Full-day kindergarten: Tips for prepping your child>

With two kids under 13, our family qualifies for the government’s parent support of “$40 per eligible child for each day the child is not in school as a result of the labour disruption.” However, that money will not be paid until at least 30 days after the labour disruption ends, which leaves parents who are choosing to send their kids to camps and other programs scrambling to find the budget to cover these unexpected costs in the short term.

Lots of businesses are jumping into the fray by offering extra programs for those of us in a bind, but they’re having to plan programs for an undetermined amount of time—and how do you schedule staffing around that? And while these options are great and a huge help, it’s still not school. Other small retail businesses are also suffering, as parents aren’t compelled to do any type of back-to-school shopping.

As for the teachers and the government, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s not about my views on the situation—I just feel like enough is enough! Kids need to go to school—they are the future of our province and their education needs to be respected.

Read more: Teacher confessions: 5 things parents do (but shouldn’t… ever!)>

Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit founded yoyomama.ca in 2007 for Vancouver parents when she couldn’t easily find local info on events, products and services for moms and their kids. As a mother of two girls and busy entrepreneur, she taps into her own front-line experiences to provide readers relevant, useful information focused on making it easy for parents make the most of their time with their kids. A big fan of technology, she was excited to add the mobile, family-friendly events app OnTheGoKids to yoyomama’s offerings in 2012.