Students should know by the end of the week whether summer school classes will be cancelled or not, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Wednesday after the province's teachers announced plans to continue their strike action throughout the break.
The B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) filed an application to the Labour Relations Board Tuesday, asking for certain summer school programs – such as remedial classes for high school students who need to make up a failed grade – to be deemed essential services.
(Read up on the issues and history of the education labour dispute with our explainer Q&A.)
The application follows an earlier one that saw exams and final grades for high school students declared essential.
Mr. Fassbender said he expects the board to rule quickly.
"They recognize the time sensitivity of getting things in place for even limited summer school," he said, noting that school districts will need time to prepare if classes are to be held.
Mr. Fassbender made his comments after the B.C Teachers' Federation announced they are prepared to continue striking through summer school if a deal isn't reached.
"It's clear that Christy Clark and Peter Fassbender need to be pressured to put real effort and political will behind mediation," BCTF president Jim Iker said on Wednesday. "B.C. teachers asked for mediation because we see it as the only way to bridge the gap between the two sides."
The two sides were at the table Wednesday discussing the possibility of bringing in a mediator, after the BCTF's top choice – veteran mediator Vince Ready – said he wasn't available to help resolve the dispute.
Neither Mr. Fassbender nor Mr. Iker would discuss any of the names that have been brought to the table.
Mr. Fassbender suggested it was too soon for the dispute to go to mediation.
"A mediator cannot facilitate an agreement if the parties are as far apart as we are now," Mr. Fassbender said.
The government has repeatedly said it is looking to break the pattern of teacher bargaining and won't table back-to-work legislation. Mr. Fassbender repeated that sentiment again on Wednesday, saying the government won't legislate teachers back to their classrooms, even if the Labour Relations Board fails to designate summer school classes as essential services.
"There just won't be summer school," said Mr. Fassbender.