Greater Trail parents of school-aged children are probably wondering what changes they will see locally now that teachers are back in the classrooms.
Late Thursday, the BC Teachers’ Federation voted in favour of a six-year collective agreement with the province that includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase annually until 2019, and the creation of a $400-million education fund that will be used to hire additional teachers.
Schools in the Boundary will see change, says the local union president, but School District 20 (SD20) won’t see a huge difference until some time down the road.
Prior to the new agreement, School District 51 Boundary (schools from Christina Lake through to Midway and Big White) used learning improvement funds to hire support staff rather than teachers, as a cost saving measure.
“There’s going to be a difference now,” explained Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay-Columbia Teachers’ Union.
“With the new contract, the education fund is dedicated to hiring teachers. In the Boundary, and across the province, there will be many more teachers hired to support our students.”
He said that SD20 teachers agreed with the superintendent to use their learning improvement funds to hire as many teachers as possible for special reading and learning assistance programs, dependent on individual school need.
“Actually, there is not a lot of change in our district as a result of this collective agreement,” he noted.
There will be additional money to support special needs students, he conceded.
“But the big win, as I call it, is yet to come. What we managed to do, is preserve our court case rights on the issue of class size and composition limits. The BC Supreme Court has already ruled that was illegally stripped from our collective agreement language contained in our 2002 contracts.”
The teachers case is slated for adjudication in the BC Supreme Court next month, Davidoff explained. “If the court upholds that decision then that will mean a huge difference for additional supports for students in our district and for students across the province.”
Parents and students alike are probably wondering if the school year will be juggled to account for the three weeks lost in the classroom instruction since the teachers began full strike action in June.
For the most part, the SD20 elementary school year will remain status quo, but a few adjustments are expected for secondary students.
Greg Luterbach, SD20’s superintendent, issued a letter to parents and guardians Friday afternoon that ended speculation about making up for lost classroom time by adding hours to the school day or by adding days to the school year.
“At this time we do not anticipate doing either,” he wrote. “Likely for secondary schools, the end date for semester 1 and semester 2 will be adjusted to try and better balance…given our later start.”
In the coming weeks, the district will have more information available about potential changes or additions to the dates for provincial exams, he added.
The first Pro-D day is scheduled for Friday, so SD20 schools will not be open.
Luterbach said the professional development day is important because school-wide discussions amongst staff related to success plans haven’t been held since last April.