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District to move into Qayqayt school this week

Work was still ongoing on the exterior of Qayqayt elementary this week.  - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
Work was still ongoing on the exterior of Qayqayt elementary this week.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

It's what's on the inside that counts for New Westminster school district CEO/superintendent John Gaiptman.

That philosophy may apply to students, but it's also the practical case when it comes to the new Qayqayt elementary.

There's plenty of work to be done on the school's grounds and exterior, but on Monday Gaiptman was anticipating the district would have an occupancy permit by Tuesday afternoon.

With the interior completed the district can move in furniture and equipment from the now-closed John Robson elementary in time for the new school to open next Tuesday.

That, of course, is pending picket lines.

New Westminster Teachers' Union president Grant Osborne said its executive agreed in June to not picket construction sites. But an occupancy permit may change that designation to being an active school.

"That's something we'll have to go back to the executive to talk about," said Osborne. "It's all happening pretty quickly."

Initial pickets were set up at New Westminster secondary and the school board office Tuesday. A schedule for picketing other schools during the week had yet to be established.

"The big message is we have to get mediation started again. It's our best hope to get this deal done and get schools open," said Osborne.

Gaiptman said the strike has made it a difficult summer.

"You wake up and you check the news immediately, and you hope there's been a break in the negotiations and they're closer to a resolution. You check when there's the next bargaining date, and hope there's a resolution to the impasse. You're consumed, it's hard to have a discussion without being asked about the impacts," said Gaiptman.

"I guess it's part of human nature, you remain optimistic. We're hoping something will happen over the Labour Day weekend. It's difficult because local districts aren't at the table. We're not part of the discussion, we just get updates. We'd like to help end this impasse, but the discussions are between the government's negotiation agent and the BCTF, and we wait to hear the news, and so far the news has not been positive."

In a letter emailed to parents and posted on the district's website Monday, Gaiptman told them even if there is a settlement by Sept. 2 there will be disruptions in regular instruction because student schedules, particularly at the secondary level, might need to be changed.

If there isn't a settlement, he expects New West's schools will be behind picket lines come Sept. 2. While they will be open there won't be any regular supervision or instruction so he's asking parents not to send their children to school.

Parks and rec programs activities for strike-idled kids

The city's parks and recreation department has come up with a bunch of activities in case the strike keeps schools closed.

They include programs for various ages at the Queensborough Community Centre, the Centennial Community Centre, Moody Park Arena, and the Century House youth centre. Public swims will also be offered at the Moody Park outdoor pool until Sept. 7, and then after that at Canada Games Pool. Public skating for a dollar will also be held at Moody Park Arena.

For details go to www.newwestpcr.ca

Budget talks

Gaiptman spent much of the summer going over the district's financial records with consultant David Greenan. He was hired by he Ministry of Education to help bring fiscal stability to New Westminster which has an accumulated deficit of nearly $5 million.

"He's finding some answers and looking at ways that maybe we could do things a little bit differently, so it's been a wonderful relationship," said Gaiptman.

Greenan has bailed out other deficit-ridden districts in past such as Langley, Mission and Vernon, where he resides.

Gaiptman was grateful to the ministry for bringing in Greenan in early June. Balancing the books turned out to be a bigger task than he anticipated when he was brought in by the district in February after retiring at CEO of the Greater Victoria school district.

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