With school back in session in less than two weeks, the Central Okanagan School District has been adjusting classrooms to meet the 2002 collective language agreement.
In November, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to restore a language agreement of set classroom sizes. To meet the Classroom Enhancement Fund requirements, the district estimates from September 2016 to September 2017 131 new teaching positions have been created. According to school district secretary treasurer Larry Paul, the district has enough space to meet the projected number of students for the school year, but has little room to spare.
“It’s been a very busy summer…there will be 59 new classroom spaces that will be open this September that weren’t open in June,” he said.
The new spaces were created by opening new classrooms, purchasing and moving portables and renovating old spaces. Five new portables have also been purchased to alleviate classroom pressures.
“If we have gains and not as many losses, things may be a little hectic as we place those additional kids,” he said.
The district is currently working to fill its list of spare teachers after many were hired full-time from its teachers-on-call list.
With the newly-elected NDP government, Paul said he isn’t concerned with any immediate plans it may have.
“I think it’s going to take the government a little time to get stabilized and (to determine) where they want to go with their directives. So, for the first little while we’re going to go with business as usual,” he said.
New Minister of Education Rob Fleming served as education critic while the Liberals were in power, and has already visited the district, said Paul. Susan Bauhart, president of the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association (COTA), said she welcomes the NDP.
“They’ve already reversed the cuts to adult education, making a huge difference to older people,” she said.
Bauhart said COTA is hopeful the NDP will fully fund the collective agreement.
Space has always been an issue in the district and more space is always needed, but the Canadian Union of Public Employees has done a good job in ensuring there will be enough classrooms available for this school year, said Bauhart.