The start of the school year this year marks a decrease in class sizes and an increase in teachers throughout the province.
Some 3,500 new teaching positions were available through the province for the start of the school year, largely thanks to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last November over class size and special needs support ratios in classrooms. The result was a deal signed by the B.C. Liberals in March to provide $330 million to fund 2,600 teaching positions, followed by an expansion by the new NDP government.
School District 27 was among the many school districts looking to hire teachers, and when the school year started on Sept. 5, they still hadn’t filled all the positions available.
Just over 10 teaching positions were advertised on the school district’s website, with 11 support staff positions available, including for educational assistants.
Superintendent Mark Wintjes says the school district is behind in their hiring, due to the summer wildfires.
“We got shut down in July basically. We moved the board office to Prince George. We were able to take our financial server with us so we could continue paying people, but our HR functions dropped. We weren’t able to get that out so HR came to a halt. We’re a little bit behind. We do have a number of positions that are up that haven’t been filled yet, but they are working really hard trying to get those filled.”
Wintjes says that initial numbers from the first day of school also indicate enrollment at several schools around the district has gone up, including at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School, which may also require positions be filled.
In the coming weeks, school administrations will be following up with students and parents registered but not at the school to see if they will be attending and are delayed by wildfires, or whether they have moved elsewhere.
“Once the actual enrollment numbers are in we compare that to what we have to have contractually in place by the end of September,” says Wintjes
Wintjes says that they are looking into expanding who the school district may be looking at for candidates for some positions in order to fill them.
“We’re looking to continue our recruitment efforts and to look at people who are local as well that may have degrees that may not be in education but who may want to try their hand at teaching. If you’ve got a science degree and you are considering, ‘Hey I might like to teach science at a secondary level,’ we are looking at those applicants as well,” says Wintjes.
Having more teachers is good news for students, he says.
“It just means we have more teachers in front of kids, which we’re quite pleased with. It’s just a matter of are we going to be able to fill all those positions.”
Otherwise, he says the board of education is set to dive into the educational, rather than management, side of things.
“Looking at our framework for enhancing student learning and then tying everything right back to our strategic plan as to what we do in the district and why we do that, in order to have the system continue. For me, it’s more of an exciting time educationally as opposed to dealing with some of the more management issues.”
School District 27 Board of Education chair Tanya Guenther agrees.
“There is so much new things happening this year and it’s so exciting. Of course, that’s been really kind of overshadowed by the wildfires. That we have many of our families, our students, our staff who have all been directly impacted by the fires whether by evacuation or on alert as well as loss of homes and loss of livelihood,” she says. “I think schoolwise we have some great things coming. It’s exciting to see the full implementation of the new curriculum and I know teachers are excited about moving forward with that and I’m really looking forward to seeing those positive things happen after we’ve had such a challenging summer.”