Options offered to public school parents

Local independent schools offering options for parents if teachers dispute drags into autumn

While the BCTF and the provincial government remain at a standstill in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, it will be business as usual for a few independent schools in Cranbrook.

It will be back to school for students at Kootenay Christian Academy and St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School on Sept. 2nd, even if the impasse remains between the two sides in the public system.

The situation in the public system has the potential to drag on for weeks, even months depending on how negotiations go between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.

With the new school year fast approaching, there are few options available working parents who want to get their kids into some kind of daycare or community program.

However, there are some available.

Both KCA and St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School are running unique programs, but space is limited.

In response to the job action and lockout between the BCTF and the BCPSEA, KCA has created a daycare program for kids ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 5.

KCA principal Gerald Barkman said he sympathizes with both sides in the public dispute, adding that the school wanted to create a program as an option for local parents.

“We work very closely with a lot of stuff with SD5, so we want to say that Kootenay Christian has a long history of collaboration and cooperation with SD5. For that reason, we do hope that an early and amicable settlement is in sight,” said Barkman.

“…We certainly are not trying to be in competition with SD5, but we do realize that there are challenges that all of our families are facing. We just want to be there as a good steward to help in the community where we can and make this whole issue as easy for the parents to ride it all out.”

As of now, Barkman is anticipating roughly 20 open spots in the program that will rum from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We’re doing it simply to help. That’s all we’re doing here,” he continued.

The program will be run by a KCA teacher and after-school program coordinator that won’t exactly simulate a classroom experience, but will have a structure to follow.

“I don’t know how much will be math or English, per se, but there will be worksheets, there’s going to be activities, there will be activities outside, they’ll be planning trips to different places around town, the museum or to the fire hall or other places,” said Barkman.

Additionally, Barkman said there are still spots open in virtually every grade if parents wish to sign up their kids for a full year at KCA. However, he discourages enrolling kids at KCA who intend to switch back to the public system when a settlement is reached.

“We would be looking more or less to have those be kids who register for the year,” he continued. “We would probably not like to make those just for a month or two.”

For more information on the program, contact KCA at 250-426-0166.

St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School also houses a community program that has been active for the last five years and is governed by Interior Health.

“It’s always been a community program,” said Jerelynn MacNeil, principal for St. Mary’s Independent Catholic School. “You don’t have to go to school here, you don’t have to be Catholic, anybody can use them. They’re meant to service the community.”

The program has a daycare component, which is full, but the after-school segment will have some available spots from 5- to 11-years old.

“We have an after school program, open to anybody,” continued MacNeil. “We are going to be open mostly likely during the week. If, when school starts, if there are enough people, we will open it from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.”

The staff is all certified and licensed early childhood educators that will take advantage the facilities at the school.

“We’ve got a super-huge room, we’ve got a structured format that is partly inside. It involves physical activity, healthy snacks, crafts, games, a homework club,” said MacNeil. “We have three gyms and three playgrounds so we have all kinds of space. The program uses all our facilities. Part of the program is located outside, so they get playtime outside, for sure.”

For more information, contact St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School at 250-426-5017.