Vancouver students and their parents are heading into Monday's one-day teachers' strike with plans for hikes, last-minute art camps and mother-daughter bonding time. But the looming uncertainty of the bitter dispute that has prompted the province's 41,000 public school teachers to kick off four days of planned rotating strikes has many worried about things getting worse in the weeks to come.
Darren Stott was frustrated when he first learned that he would need to make alternate arrangements for his kids, James, 8, and Emma, 5, who normally attend an after-school program that won't be running for the full day.
"We were left in a lurch," the Vancouver resident said. "Obviously I was frustrated."
But with his 41st birthday falling on Monday, the self-employed business consultant decided to make the most of the situation. He and his wife, who works in a bank, were both lucky enough to get the day off from work. They're planning to pack a picnic lunch and spend the day hiking in the mountains or along the sea coast with the kids.
"We've decided to make a day of it," said Mr. Stott, "because it's my birthday."
Mr. Stott, who volunteers at a school in his spare time teaching children how to grow produce and cook healthy food, says he sympathizes with the teachers and sees how hard they work. But he is concerned about what he will do with the kids if the job action ramps up to a full-on strike – especially because he's expecting to land an important work contract in the next week or so.
"I am worried that it's going to get worse before it gets better," he said. "We have a real strong network of families in this neighbourhood … I imagine we'll probably take it in turns."
Parents in other districts are also gearing up for a day without classes. Jessica Yang, who lives in Richmond, says she freaked out when she learned that her kids' classes will be cancelled on Tuesday. Her parents are willing to take care of her son and daughter, ages eight and five, but she worries about overburdening them.
"They're older and they have some health issues, so I just don't want to put too much onto them," said Ms. Yang, who works as a co-ordinator at the Renaissance Kids Early Learning Centres.
Ms. Yang was excited when she learned that the Arts Connection, which is connected with Renaissance Kids, is hosting a full-day arts camp on Tuesday. "I signed my kids up right away," she said.
Parents in other municipalities are also preparing for the walkouts. Some of them, such as Victoria resident Michele Sealey, are not as worried about supervising their kids. Ms. Sealey works from home some days, and her 13-year-old daughter Aziza Sealey-Qaylow can take care of herself if needed.
But Ms. Sealey has other concerns. Her daughter is enrolled in a fine arts program at Colquitz Middle School, and has been practising for the school musical – a rendition of Xanadu – since January. Now, the walkout – which is slated for Wednesday in Victoria – is threatening the production.
Opening night was supposed to be Tuesday, with performances running straight through until Saturday. Instead the kids will lose their dress rehearsal so the show can open a night earlier. And, if the teachers' job action escalates, the duration of the play could be cut short.
It's a stressful situation for the kids, said Ms. Sealey.
"A lot of these kids take it very seriously," she said. "They've poured their hearts and their time into it."
Their parents have also volunteered their time and energy, slaving over sets and costumes. And many of the teachers have stayed after school supervising rehearsals and talking to kids and their parents.
"You've got some really dedicated teachers that have done a lot to get this musical going … and now it's in jeopardy," said Ms. Sealey.
Ms. Sealey says she's keeping her fingers crossed that the production won't be compromised.
As for Wednesday, she's managed to rearrange her work schedule so she can stay at home spend the day doing something fun with her daughter.
"I think it'll be a pedicure Wednesday," she said with a laugh.