Community centres in the Metro Vancouver area are opening up registration for day camps and other child-care programs for the fall, signalling expectations for a continued teachers' strike come September.
Debbie Clavelle, community recreation manager for the City of Coquitlam, says registration is now open for two weeks of active day camps, which will include outdoor activities, at three community centres: Poirier Community Centre, Pinetree Community Centre and Victoria Community Hall. The city will be monitoring the situation to determine whether to run the camps beyond the two weeks.
(Read up on the issues and history of the education labour dispute with our explainer Q&A.)
"We know that parents get worried," said Ms. Clavelle. "They've been asking since the beginning of August in anticipation of what was going to happen."
Parents are anxiously awaiting news as the expected start of school draws closer, but neither the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) nor the education ministry will comment on negotiations, citing a media blackout.
The government maintains that it has no plans to legislate teachers back to work.
"We want a negotiated settlement at the table," Education Minister Peter Fassbender told reporters in Vancouver on Tuesday. "We have said that we are not prepared to continue the cycle of legislated solutions with the BCTF."
Some community centres in Vancouver have also opened registration, including Britannia Community Services Centre, where full-week care will cost $150 – slightly less than the $40 per child per day that the government is promising to give parents if the strike continues into the school year.
Daisy Chin, manager of recreation services for the Vancouver park board, said the programs are a contingency plan in case the dispute does not get resolved by Sept. 2.
"We are hopeful that things will get worked out and resolved," said Ms. Chin. But just in case, those community centres that have the staff and the resources available have started planning now, to avoid a last-minute scramble.
The City of Surrey is also offering daytime camps and has scheduled programming – including swim and skate camps at arenas and even a drop-in hockey camp – until the end of September. Registration for those programs is open.
Jim Tyler, acting manager of community recreation services for Parks, Recreation and Culture, said the city will be monitoring the situation.
"We're just responding to the needs of the community," said Mr. Tyler. "If the labour dispute is resolved, then we would scale back the programs accordingly."
Some parents have suggested that the $40 subsidy is the government's attempt to placate them over child-care costs while allowing the labour dispute to fester until teachers run out of money and agree to settle on the employers' terms. But Mr. Fassbender says that isn't the case.
"I hope that not a single cheque for $40 goes out because we've negotiated a settlement at the table," he said.
Parents have expressed some optimism about the negotiations since the announcement last week that veteran mediator Vince Ready has agreed to talk with both sides and provide mediation when it would be most productive.
Mr. Ready had initially declined when the BCTF asked him to get involved back in June. It was widely speculated at the time that he didn't feel the two sides were close enough for mediation to be productive.
Both sides remain at an impasse over certain key issues, such as non-wage benefits and class size and composition.