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Don't send your kids to school during strike: Surrey School District

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The Surrey School District is "strongly encouraging" parents to find alternative care for their children early next week, despite a statement by Education Minister George Abbott saying B.C. schools will be open and parents can send their kids if they want.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) served strike notice Thursday morning after teachers across the province voted in favour of a full-scale walkout. As a result, teachers will not be reporting for class for three days – action allowed under a Labour Relations Board ruling issued earlier this week.

The ruling prohibits picket lines, however, allowing non-BCTF employees, such a support staff and principals, to go to work.

Abbott said Thursday that B.C. schools will therefore be open during the job action, and it's up to parents if they want to send children to school.

But a letter posted online and sent home to Surrey public school parents Thursday urged parents to make other arrangements, reiterating that all classes will be cancelled March 5-7 and no classroom instruction will be taking place.

"Some services are available, but we don't have the capacity at the schools to take students in," said Doug Strachan, spokesperson for the Surrey School District. "We believe they (parents) will keep them (children) at home because we aren't able to be assured of the capacity for supervision."

The letter to parents notes some services will continue at local schools, such as StrongStart early learning programs, Surrey College classes, most child care centres operated on school sites and before- and after-school care such as the JumpStart Academy and RBC program. Community group facility rentals at schools will also be unaffected.

However, parents are still encouraged to check with child care providers that are offered in schools as some may choose to close during the strike.

Letters were also sent to Delta parents asking them not to send their children to school.

"There will be no picket lines in place and school buildings will be open; however, there will be limited staff in the building. Since staff will not be available to provide adequate supervision or instruction we ask that you make alternative childcare arrangements for your children during the strike," read the Delta School District letter.

CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees), which represents some school support workers, issued a statement saying that while CUPE members who work in public schools are expected to show up to work next week, but "should not perform any student supervision which is teacher and administrator work."

The provincial government began debate Thursday on legislation introduced Tuesday that would extend the current teacher pay and benefits for another six months, while a mediator works with the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association in an effort to find common ground on class sizes, special needs support and other issues. The mediator is restricted to work within the government's "net zero" wage mandate.

The teachers' union has dismissed the legislation and restrictions on the government-appointed mediator, saying results of the strike vote are "strong evidence" that teachers reject the "provocative and damaging legislation."

- with files from Tom Fletcher

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