Langley parent stages 'walk in' at Simonds Elementary

Brigitte MacNamara speaks to the media outside Simonds Elementary on Friday (June 13) morning. The Langley mother crossed the picket line to bring her two children to school as part of a school
Brigitte MacNamara speaks to the media outside Simonds Elementary on Friday (June 13) morning. The Langley mother crossed the picket line to bring her two children to school as part of a school 'walk-in.'
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

Brigitte MacNamara was given a half hour's notice on Thursday that her daughter's Grade 5 ceremony was being held that afternoon.

"I showed up here in my work clothes, I almost missed it," she said.

This was an event that her daughter and the rest of the students at Simonds Elementary had been looking forward to for years.

The ceremony sees each Grade 5 student receive a rose from a Kindergarten student, the Langley mom explained.

"They are disappointed," MacNamara told the media outside the school on Friday morning.

"They received a pencil, which is great … but the rose is very symbolic.

"A pencil means nothing to these children, but the rose did."

With students around the province caught in the middle of the ongoing dispute between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government, MacNamara was prompted to take action.

So on Friday morning (June 13), she crossed the teachers' picket line outside Simonds Elementary and took her two school-aged children inside.

"This is not my picket line, I am not part of this union," said MacNamara, who has two daughters,  in Grades 3 and 5,  at the elementary school.

"I know (teaching) is a hard job.

"It does not affect me. What affects me is missing work, is my children not being in school.

"There is a third party here, this is about the kids."

MacNamara showed up at about 8:45 a.m. and whisked her kids in through a side door at the elementary school, before coming out to speak to the media.

"Media attention is not what I am looking for," she said. "I am just looking to find, hopefully with other people's help, a solution to this.

"And until they do, I have to step in. I really do."

Friday was the last day of rotating strikes around the province, but the BCTF took a strike vote earlier in the week, with 86 per cent in favour of escalating job action. The BCTF issued 72-hour strike notice on June 12, with a full strike expected to begin on June 17 if an agreement is not reached.

MacNamara announced her intentions for the 'walk-in' on June 9 and invited other parents to drop off their children. One parent did bring her child to the school Friday morning.

MacNamara was not instructing the students.

"They are not under my care, they are under the administrators' supervision," she said.

"I am just going to be there to make it a learning experience, and fun, and a great experience for all of us."

"She is not teaching a class," said Ken Hoff, the Langley School Board's communications manager prior to MacNamara's arrival.

"We have allowed her access to the library. Much like during the school year, she is spending time with her children as a parent."

Her plan was to continue working on what her children have been studying. She also planned on making it as 'normal' a school day as she could, with breaks for recess and lunch.

"I am fully aware of what my children are working on in their class," MacNamara said.

"I am not a licensed teacher, I am not trained to do this.

"I do teach them every day at home a number of different things; I do help them with homework."

News stories about MacNamara's plan resulted in some online comments and two RCMP officers were on scene Friday morning.

MacNamara called some of the comments "shocking" but said they had been toned down by the end of the week.

"To imply that there would be danger crossing the picket line, that was very shocking to me that people would even insinuate that teachers are dangerous," she said.

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