Teachers’ union still concerned, although number of oversized classes shrinks

There are over 75 per cent fewer classes over the 30-student limit in the Comox Valley this year.

There are over 75 per cent fewer classes over the 30-student limit in the Comox Valley this year — but the Comox District Teachers’ Association (CDTA) is still concerned.

“It was our intention this year to have no class sizes over 30 — anywhere,” School District 71 superintendent Sherry Elwood, told Board of Education trustees at Tuesday’s meeting. “We just had a bit of a cohort glitch at one of our schools regarding French immersion secondary cohorts, and we’re in a place where the 15 actual classes that are over 30 are all at one school — they are at Mark Isfeld.”

She added a number of new Grade 8 and 9 students came to the school’s French immersion program at the last minute. Thirteen classes have 31 students and two have 32.

According to Bill 22, kindergarten classes cannot exceed 22 students and Grades 1 to 3 cannot exceed 24 students.

Grades 4 to 12 can exceed 30 students with teacher consent, and that teacher will receive compensation if they let the district know what kind of compensation they want. Compensation can be: an increase in pay, additional time, additional professional development funding or a request for specialized equipment or learning resources.

No elementary classes were over 30 students.

CDTA president Steve Stanley told the Record teachers are pleased there are so few classes over 30 students this year; he wrote a couple of letters to the board last year noting 71 classes in the district with over 30 students.

However, he pointed out Bill 22 removed the limits on how many students with special needs there are per class and the requirement to report those numbers, which he said worries teachers.

His letter last year noted 35 classes over the limit in elementary school classes, and 240 classes over the limit in secondary schools.

He added the CDTA is gathering this information from each teacher in the district, which he said is time-consuming but should be compiled by mid-November.

He pointed out a large share of the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) funding is going to educational assistants, but teachers have concerns around how well more educational assistants addresses having higher numbers of students with special needs in one classroom.

“Putting 30 kids in a class and 10 of them having special needs and putting another adult in the room may not be the best way to address the learning needs of all of those students,” said Stanley. “And that seems to be the case — lots of classes have large numbers of special-needs students in them and they’ve used that money to hire more educational assistants.”

Elwood also noted the majority of the LIF funding — $909,500 for the Comox Valley — has been distributed through the district.

She presented the spending plan for this school year and will send the plan to the Ministry of Education by the end of the month.

Districts are required to spend at least 12.5 per cent of the funding on educational support staff.

Elwood noted there’s never enough money to meet all the requests, but district staff assessed all of them and did their best to distribute the money fairly.

“We tried to take a dollar and stretch it to make it about $1.60,” she said. “When you’re given $2 million worth of requests and you have $900,000, you can’t meet all the needs but we’ve done what we feel — after hours and hours of consultation and hours and hours of work — we’ve done our best to spread it as equitably and evenly as we can.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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