Amid the chaos and uncertainty of the B.C. teachers’ strike, at least one group of students has managed to capitalize on the situation: babysitters.
For Amanda Constantini, a Grade 7 student who recently earned a babysitting certificate from the Canadian Red Cross, the early end to the school year was the perfect opportunity for the 13-year-old to pursue her first paid job.
(Read up on the issues and history of the education labour dispute with our explainer Q&A.)
“I thought that I could just help parents out and maybe start making some money during the strike,” said Amanda, who graduated from Vancouver’s Kerrisdale Elementary School this week.
With help from her mother, Bev, the teen made an electronic flyer advertising her services and rates – $6 an hour and $2 for every additional child – and e-mailed it around.
“Right away, I got, like, four or five phone calls,” she said. In fact, business has been so good that she’s had to turn down requests.
“Business has been very busy but then I have my life that I have, too,” she said. “I’ve had to turn down some, but I still have many options because the parents are still working during the strike.”
In Oak Bay, Adrienne Henderson and her three siblings decided to launch Strike Camp, an expanded version of a babysitting service they first started offering two years ago for professional development days. For $30 per kid – $20 for a second and any additional siblings free – frantic parents could drop their children off for a day of Capture the Flag, Nerf gunfights and beach time.
On the first day of rotating strikes in May, about a dozen kids attended the Hendersons’ Strike Camp. In recent days, the attendance doubled.
“We got so many e-mails from panicked parents saying, ‘My child is so low-maintenance; can you please just let them in?’” said Adrienne, 16.
With help from her brother, Cameron, 14, and twin sisters Jocelyn and Brianna, almost 11, Adrienne said it’s “a lot easier than you would think” to preside over 25 restless children.
“We have all of them pair up – usually a younger kid with a big kid – we count them and we tell them they’re not allowed going anywhere unless they tell us,” she said. “We’ve never lost a kid. It’s a great track record that we hope to keep.”
B.C.’s 41,000 unionized public school teachers began strike action in April, moving to rotating walkouts in May. They have been on a full strike since June 17, cutting short the school year by two weeks.
On Wednesday, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said members are prepared to strike through the summer, picketing summer-school sites, if a deal is not reached by June 30.
A day earlier, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association had filed an application to the Labour Relations Board (LRB) asking for certain summer-school programs to be deemed essential services.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who said Wednesday the two sides are still “miles apart” in negotiations, is optimistic the LRB will release a decision by weeks’ end.