Kitimat teachers, students back to school on Monday

Teachers will be going back to work on Monday following a long, bitter strike.

With a firm “yes” vote, B.C. teachers have set September 22 to return to classes.

“We announced on September 17 how pleased we were that a tentative deal was reached between the government and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF),” read a letter on the school district’s website Friday, signed by Superintendent Katherine McIntosh. “We waited to learn the final details of the agreement reached and the ratification results to announce the opening of our schools.  Those details are now in hand.”

The letter continues, “We have well established routines and we will follow our normal opening day routines with a shortened first day,” she wrote. “As you will know, these first days allow us to greet students, set preliminary enrolment and then prepare in earnest for the coming school days.”

“I wish to congratulate both bargaining teams. We recognize that both teams put in huge hours and an enormous effort to reach a deal. We should also acknowledge that our teachers and their support staff colleagues have been walking a picket line since last spring.”

B.C. Teachers’ Federation members voted 86 per cent in favour of a six-year agreement negotiated with the help of mediator Vince Ready last week. About three out of four of the province’s 40,000 teachers voted.

“I’m happy with this deal,” said BCTF president Jim Iker. It gives the province’s teachers raises totalling 7.25 per cent over six years, improvements to benefits and a fund to hire hundreds of new teachers each year.

Iker said the turnout for the vote was higher than the union’s last two ratification votes.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender congratulated teachers on the settlement, which ends a bitter strike that shut schools for two weeks in June and another three weeks this fall.

“We can now focus on the path forward,” Fassbender said. “This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students – to enhance their education experience and to support their achievements.”

Premier Christy Clark added her thanks on Twitter.

“This is a fair, affordable deal that will let us focus on putting students first,” Clark said.

You can read the full letter from the school district here.

– Includes content from Tom Fletcher