It’s going to be a little more crowded in the staff lunchrooms of the Kootenay-Columbia School District (SD20) this September.
The district is hiring 25 new full-time-equivalent teachers for the start of the fall semester — about a 10 per cent increase in the number of full-time teachers.
“They’re going in right across the board, in our K-12 schools,” says district superintendent Bill Ford.
The hiring spree is a result of the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that restored the 2002 contract language regarding classroom size and other aspects of the union agreement with B.C. government.
In elementary schools the ruling is creating new classrooms, but there’s a slightly different reason for hiring in secondary schools.
“In secondary schools, any class deemed a lab- think science lab, home economics labs, or shop classes — any class that falls in that definition has a maximum size of 24 now,” Ford explained. “In the past the maximum size was 30.”
Other services were affected by the ruling as well. Ford says the district has also hired a second full-time elementary school counsellor.
The district also picked up 30 Teachers Teaching on Call (TTOC, or substitute teachers), and will be hiring more in a second intake, coming soon.
“Whenever we can add staff to the system, it is a positive thing,” says Ford.
It’s not known how much the extra staff is going to increase the district’s budget — the numbers are still being worked as the Ministry of Education and districts scramble to fulfill the court ruling.
“At this point we are close to being fully funded for the teachers we have to hire, but not 100 per cent fully funded,” Ford told the Trail Times. “But hopefully the Ministry will provide the balance of funding we haven’t received to date.”
The president of the Kootenay-Columbia Teachers Union, Andy Davidoff, is happy with the way the board has worked with the union to manage the new hires. He says they are continuing to co-operate on several outstanding issues.
But he’s concerned about the delays in nailing down the necessary funding for the new hires.
“We appreciate the board’s commitment to do the hiring, even though they’re still waiting for the funding commitment from the provincial government,” he added. “I know some district boards didn’t do that, they won’t hire until they see the money. But our board committed to do the hiring even though they were running a bit short.”
Davidoff would like to see a new Minister of Education appointed as soon as possible to help get the funding issue settled.
SD20’s hiring binge is now being played out in every school district across the province. In the Kootenay Lake School District (SD8), more than 85 teachers are being hired- though only 16 or so are full-time equivalents.
Ford reported so far SD20 has been able to find the teachers they need to fill the positions available.