What are students from Similkameen Elementary Secondary and Cawston Primary Schools doing as the B.C. teachers strike enters week two of the new school year?
It’s a question many in Keremeos were asking, with few visible signs on the street of a school strike. There hasn’t been an extrodinary number of school aged youth in the streets of Keremeos since the school year was supposed to have begun on September 2. The parks, including the skateboard park, were mostly empty on September 8.
Being an agricultural area, many students also live on farms, vineyards and orchards. This time of year, there’s lots of work to do at home for many students. A local packinghouse owner expressed a desire to have the teachers stay out longer so he could continue to have access to local student help.
It appears also that many students have been able to hang on to their summer jobs and continue to work while waiting for the strike to end. Hayley Porter, a student in her grad year at SESS, has been able to continue her job at Orchard Blossom Honey, but both she and her mother are getting anxious for school to start.
“It’s been good that she’s been able to work,” said her mother, “but it’s time they were back in school.”
SESS students Noah and Eli Ana Beglaw, and Katie Frasch all found temporary employment at the Grist Mill as a result of a program that was put together quickly, in response to word that school would not be starting as usual, at that facility last week.
Admission fees to the grounds were cut by half and a program of activities put together, running between 10 and 3 p.m. to keep younger students entertained.
It appears to be the only program in the community that is presently being offered to provide some assistance to parents while the strike is ongoing.
The three students of SESS help with the new program, assisting parents with supervision of the children and also helping with chores at the Grist Mill.
Mill Manager Chris Mathieson said the program has been successful during the first week of the strike, although student numbers could be higher.
“We’ve had a couple dozen students, from both primary and intermediate levels,” he reported.
On Monday, September 8, Rachael McWhirter was visiting the Grist Mill along with several other mothers and their primary school aged children.
“It’s been challenging,” Rachael said in regard to keeping their children supervised and entertained while out of school.
“We’re lucky we live in a community that has so much to offer – and it’s affordable, too.”
McWhirter said she was part of a group of moms that were looking for ways to keep their kids together during the strike. The children are all enrolled in a French language school in Penticton.