Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay has opened its doors to international students in the Comox Valley School District, and that’s not sitting well with the striking teachers.
Administrative staff members are providing a program for the 160 students, who have been asked to cross a picket line during the ongoing teachers’ strike.
“That’s the biggest problem we have,” Comox District Teachers’ Association president Nick Moore said. “We’re disappointed and frustrated that students and parents are being put in a position to decide whether or not to cross a picket line.”
The international program brings in about $2 million to SD 71, Moore added.
“We rely on that to help support all the students in the Comox Valley. The reason why we have to do that is because government has under-funded education, and our district has had to find a way to make up that funding. So the more international students they have, the better it is for everybody. But it’s sad, because it’s basically a private school running in a public system.”
Superintendent Sherry Elwood says the district, as agreed with the CDTA, had hired teachers to offer the programs in summer. By mid-July, however, principals and senior staff filled the positions because she said the association had changed its mind.
As for asking students to cross picket lines, Elwood said the district has permission from international parents for students to attend at Lake Trail.
“We have legal contracts with these families that we felt we must honour,” Elwood said. “These students are not receiving course credit and we are not offering courses to international students. We are simply supporting them with transition issues and familiarizing them with the routines of going to school in a western public school.”
Moore notes other B.C. school districts have arranged alternate locations at recreation centres or elsewhere to accommodate international students during the job action.
Elwood said the CDTA was aware the district had looked for alternate settings but could not find a suitable space in the Valley.
The CDTA hosts a community education forum from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Filberg Centre. A cross-section of teachers will be on hand to discuss issues and answer questions. Anyone interested in public education is encouraged to attend.