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No goodbye for Robson

If the teachers strike isn
If the teachers strike isn't resolved soon students at John Robson won't get a chance to say goodbye to their school before it's razed this summer to make way for a new middle school.
— image credit: GRANT GRANGER/NEWSLEADER FILE

Unless the teachers strike is suddenly settled students at John Robson elementary won't get to say goodbye to their school before it's bulldozed.

Robson will be leveled this summer to make way for the new Fraser River middle school. The students will be transferred to the new Qayqayt elementary, expected to open in September.

Serena Trachta, chair of the Robson parent advisory council, said if the strike lasts until the end of the school year the students won't get a chance to go through the grieving process of losing a building they learned, lived and loved in for almost 200 days a year.

"It sounds superficial but at this elementary school age it's a significant development to form attachments like that. This is that formative time when they're doing that. We've gone ahead and gotten them attached and now we've abruptly terminated that. There's no goodbye before it's bulldozed, no ceremony," said Trachta.

The same could be said for Hume Park, which will be shut down for budgetary reasons.

There had been discussions at Robson about giving the students the opportunity to say goodbye.

"[Last] Friday was their sports day, and everything was gearing up towards that, and then we were supposed to have two weeks getting this cleaned up and winding down to this time. It was a mad rush [last Friday]," said Trachta.

She noted a lot of equipment and supplies was put in boxes in case of the strike.

"What happens if the strike ends? Everything's packed up," said Trachta. "This process got short circuited, they got sent home with everything. Boxes are stacked up everywhere. Even if they go back, what are they going to be doing? What are they going to be working on?"

Trachta said Robson's parents are upset and frustrated by the strike. They want to see more discussion between the province and the teachers on class size and composition. The PAC is writing a letter to the Ministry of Education calling for that conversation because larger classes with more special needs students have had a detrimental effect at Robson.

New Westminster superintendent/CEO John Gaiptman was in a sombre mood when discussing the strike's implication on the district.

"I am deeply concerned about morale," said Gaiptman on Tuesday. "I think everybody is in a tough, tough position. It's a position that nobody wants to be in. Somehow, we've got to make sure that this is the place that people want to be and are excited about the profession we've all chosen to be in. This has been hard on everybody. It's been hard on the parents, it's been hard on the students, and it's been hard on the teachers. I am concerned for all three groups."

He said Grade 10, 11 and 12 students are writing exams under the supervision of senior staff. The Grade 12 exams will be sent to a central location to be marked. The others will be marked by senior staff, principals and vice principals.

All Grade 12 students will get report cards and they will have all of their marks regardless if they were taking Grade 10, 11 or 12 level courses.

"But if we don't get back soon, we will not have report cards for our K to 11 students. That is difficult. It's still being debated at the Labour Relations Board as to the Grade 10 and 11s, but certainly our students in K to Grade 9 will not be receiving a report card if there is no resolution," said Gaiptman.

He added summer school plans are still underway and students wanting to go should enrol. But the district is still waiting to see if they'll be allowed to hold summer school.

If there's a quick settlement it will be a challenge for the district to get up and running on short notice. It's a challenge Gaiptman wants.

"If there is resolution in the next couple of days we will absolutely make it work. Give us that challenge and watch us succeed, but we need resolution at the table for that to happen," said Gaiptman.

New Westminster secondary's graduation ceremony will still take place as scheduled at Queen's Park Arena on Thursday, June 26 although with less staff than what normally would attend, said Gaiptman.

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