Recess cancelled as Valley teachers take job action

The Cowichan’s Valley’s public school teachers have expressed unhappiness at a recent move by School District 79 to cancel recess.

"Cowichan teachers are saddened that the school district has chosen to follow the directive of the provincial teacher bargaining agent, BCPSEA, by cancelling recess," said Naomi Nilsson, president of the Cowichan District Teachers Association on behalf of her members.

"We note that there are only seven schools that require 15 minutes of supervision, and over 20 excluded staff to cover those time slots.

That number does not include the principals at those seven schools.

We wish that this effort by our school district would, instead, be directed towards the provincial bargaining table to aid in facilitating a fairly negotiated deal."

Letters went out to the families of students affected by the decision.

A typical one went out from Chemainus Community Elementary School.

"As you are probably aware, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has announced that they will commence job action starting Wednesday, April 23, 2014," it reads.

"There will likely be communication and information coming to you from the district around what this will look like, but there is one area that is unique to a few schools, including Chemainus Elementary: recess.

"A part of the BCTF job action includes the withdrawal of supervision services. Unlike our lunch break, which is supervised by noon hour supervisors, teachers have been supervising the recess.

As this causes a safety concern and a supervision need that cannot be sustained by utilizing excluded staff, etc., we have no other option but to cancel recess and adjust our bell schedule by three minutes.

"The 15-minute recess was noninstructional time, and therefore we need to shorten our day to accommodate the change."

The changes began Monday, April 28.

The school principal, Brenda Stevenson, added in her message that she did not expect the new schedule would impact the bus schedule.