Court rules teachers must be involved in class size decisions

A new B.C. Court of Appeal ruling on class sizes could put a crimp on School District 20’s plan to increase its sizes for next year.

A new B.C. Court of Appeal ruling on class sizes could put a crimp on the school district’s plan to increase its sizes for next year.

The court ruled Friday that school administrators must be accountable to teachers when it comes to planning class sizes, overturning a 2009 arbitrator decision that as long as a class did not exceed 33 students, then only the opinions of a principal or superintendent mattered when determining if the size and composition were appropriate.

However, in a move last March to deal with a budgetary shortfall, School District No 20 (Kootenay Columbia) decided to impose a district-wide rise of one student in the student-to-teacher ratio—from 24-1 to 25-1.

SD20 board chair Darrel Ganzert said the increase will be within the realm of reasonability, but it could still be challenged by the teachers’ union.

“The administrative team believed they could increase the numbers without risking class size controversies in the new school year,” he said.

Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union president Andy Davidoff was not available for comment at press time. But B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert said the ruling was part of solving the real problem facing the education system.

She felt the key to smaller class sizes and providing services to students with special needs was funding.

What will happen in the SD20 schools when the young people settle into desks will not be known until September when classes resume and enrolment is set, Ganzert added.

“At that point we will get some analysis and summary about what the implications are in the high schools,” he said.

The rule under the School Act capped class sizes above Grade 4 at 30 students, “unless the principal consults with the teacher and the principal and superintendent from the opinion the class is appropriate for student learning.”

Two months ago SD20 teachers and teachers across the province ratified a new agreement between their union and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.