B.C. school districts fight to find space, hire teachers

Hundreds of new teachers hired after Supreme Court decision

Despite the mad scramble earlier this year, most school districts in B.C. are on track to fill hundreds of new teaching positions.

The BC Liberal government signed a deal in March providing $330 million to fund 2,600 new teacher jobs and comply with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year that ended a lengthy court battle over contract language governing class size and special needs support ratios.

RELATED: B.C.’s legal battle with teachers’ unions cost $2.6M

That kind of a hiring spree had been unheard of over more than a decade, so officials had to not only fill jobs but create necessary space for new classrooms. Across B.C., districts converted everything from shop classes to multipurpose rooms into standard classrooms.

“We hired just over 100 teachers for the classrooms – 102.9 full time equivalent positions,” said Nanaimo and Ladysmith School District spokesperson Dale Burgo.

In Surrey, school district officials had to fill 325 positions, according to spokesperson Doug Strachan, and closed 60 postings just last week.

“Our focus is on backfilling to ensure we have enough teachers on the teacher-on-call list,” said Strachan. “A lot of the hirings come from that list. The list is typically 200 long.”

RELATED: Surrey scrambling to fill teacher-on-call lists

Filling jobs and rearranging learning spaces was a struggle, admitted CEO and superintendent of the Central Okanagan School District Kevin Kaardal.

“Lots of work by lots of very, very committed people,” said Kaardal. “It started back in November when the Supreme Court decision was decided. We got ahead of the curve.”

RELATED: Province funds 2,600 more teachers

Kaardal said they’ve hired 170 teachers without trouble, saying the number of came from both the court ruling and some retirements.

“We (also) had to create 59 new learning spaces, including the addition of five portables,” Kaardal added. “We repositioned portables. We actually reopened classrooms that had been closed or repurposed for some other reason.”

The B.C. education ministry issued a statement this week, saying progress is going well across the province.

“We’ve been advised that most school districts are successfully hiring the teachers they need to be in compliance with the [agreement] with the BCTF – and also to meet local enrolment growth,” the ministry said. “However, there are some recruitment and retention challenges, especially for specialist positions and replenishing teacher-on-call lists.”

The court case cost the government $2.6 million in legal costs. The settlement is to provide a system to carry the province’s public school system to 2019, when the current teacher contract must be renegotiated.


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