As she walked toward downtown Williams Lake Wednesday morning, Grade 9 student Alyssa Cheverie carried a sign that stated: “It’s school not chess. We’re not pawns.”
Cheverie was one of dozens of local students from Lake City Secondary School’s Columneetza Campus who participated in a province-wide student protest against the ongoing teacher and government dispute in B.C.
“This walkout proves that we as students have a voice,” Cheverie said.
Walking beside her, Grade 9 student Isabelle Call was wearing a T-shirt that noted: “Why are Mommy and Daddy always fighting about me?”
Michaela Newberry, also in Grade 9, said the teachers and government have been disagreeing for 13 years.
“They say it’s about us, but obviously it’s not if it’s gone on this long,” Newberry said.
All three students said more money needs to go into the schools.
If more and more money goes to teachers and administrators then it’s not going into the schools, Newberry said.
Around the corner on Proctor Street, Lake City Secondary School Grade 10 students Cassandra Eves and Cassidy Chupa also carried signs.
“I don’t like how much money the government is taking away from our school,” Eves said. “We need new desks, and updated science textbooks.”
Chupa agreed and said the school system needs to be improved.
Both students attend Lake City Secondary’s Williams Lake Campus and said the student walkout wasn’t very well planned at their school.
Not too many students had made signs, they explained.
“We’re walking out for a reason,” Chupa said. “I think for many students it’s the novelty of walking out.”
Up toward Lake City Secondary’s Columneetza campus, Grade 9 students Rebecca Fraser and Lexi Hamm walked alone along Western Avenue, also carrying signs.
Fraser’s sign read “Strike + Lockout = Walkout.”
As a Grade 9 student taking Grade 10 Math, Fraser said the strike is impacting her.
In fact, she waited to walk out until she’d written a Math exam first thing Wednesday morning.
She said she’s worried about being prepared for her upcoming provincial math exam.
“I need to get help at lunch to prepare for the exam but our teacher isn’t allowed to meet with me right now,” she said.
Hamm’s sign urged teachers and the government to think about students.
“It’s frustrating,” Hamm said. “They are bickering like little kids when in fact, we are the kids. They need us, but they aren’t thinking about us.”
She complained that students have not been consulted or really told exactly what is going on with the dispute.
Dozens of other students were milling around downtown Wednesday morning, however, not too many of them were carrying signs.
On Tuesday, School District 27 Superintendent Mark Thiessen in a letter to parents strongly urged students not to participate in the walkout, both to ensure their safety and not add to further disruption to the already difficult dispute.