Class composition crisis in Northern B.C. school district

Sheer number of violations tally up to $550,000 in remedies

Public school teachers and their administrators are struggling to cope with the number of special needs students in classes.

Although the number of students in classes now mostly meet an agreement reached this year between the provincial government and teachers, the ratio of special needs students within many classes throughout the Coast Mountains School District exceeds what was set out in the agreement.

Since September nearly 80 per cent of the district’s classes are in violation of the special needs composition limits.

While there have been improvements Terrace and District Teachers’ Union president Mike Wen says some classes still have as many as 10 special needs students in a class of 26.

“Most of them who have real problems are teachers who end up with nine, 10 or 11 identified kids in their class,” Wen said.

“You need to look at things through the lens of composition as well as class size. If you put the two together, [you’d] have a smaller class of 14 with three identified students, not a class of 28 with six identified students.”

“There’s a big difference between the two. That’s why there’s so much frustration,” said Wen.

The issues are particularly bad at Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary, Skeena Middle School in Terrace, Caledonia Senior Secondary in Terrace, and Hazelton Secondary in Hazelton.

That’s because all the elementary schools converge into one secondary school, and the special needs students are all funnelled through the same core courses.

But nearly every school in the district has classes in violation, except for Bear Valley in Stewart and Ecole Mountainview, Suwilaawks, and Thornhill Primary in Terrace.

The solution for class composition challenges reached in this year’s agreement is to provide what are called remedies based on a formula which sets out the amount of money that can be spent to hire extra help in one form or another.

That can take the form of another teacher in the class or by bringing in a substitute so the regular teacher has more prep time.

To date that remedy for the Coast Mountains School District works out to $337 a month for each violation of each class composition limit.

How that money is spent each month is negotiated monthly by teachers and their administrators, adding to teacher frustration about the overall issue of the number of special needs students in classes, said Wen.

“The remedy isn’t hiring an extra teacher for the full year, it’s like, get someone to come — if you have enough time — once a week for the month, or one afternoon for a month,” explained Wen.

“Or, you can get a TTOC (Teacher Teaching On Call, known as a substitute) to come in for the day, and you take extra prep time.”

The school district has so far spent $550,000 on monthly class composition remedies from the $2.73 million it received from the province to address that issue and to hire more teachers.

“It’s a huge amount of work,” said school district secretary-treasurer Alanna Cameron of managing the situation and reporting in on how the money is spent.

“We have workbooks galore, endless workbooks of every single class…. and in the high school that’s one teacher with four blocks,” she said.

“There are only four schools in our district without any violations,” said Cameron.

“All of the other schools in our district have violations and require tracking – it’s a tremendous undertaking.”

The agreement this year to set limits on class sizes and the number of special needs students per class arose from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2016 which restored those limits as set out in teacher contracts dating back to 2002.

That was when the B.C. Liberal government of the day passed legislation wiping out those limits, setting in motion lengthy court battle between government and teachers, a battle ultimately won by the teachers thanks to the 2016 supreme court decision.

Just Posted

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

VIDEO: Northwest Regional Airport terminal project officially opens

Celebration today marks the completion of phase one of the Terrace-Kitimat airport expansion

North coast represented on B.C.’s new Wild Salmon Advisory Council

Joy Thorkelson, James Lawson and Tasha Sutcliffe will help create strategies to protect B.C. salmon

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

New Jersey forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

Vancouver’s Sedin brothers share King Clancy Award for humanitarian efforts

50 new fires sparked in B.C. after lightning strikes across province

Similar conditions seen at the beginning of 2017 wildfire season

B.C. woman graduates high school at age 92

Nanaimo’s Joan Deebank the oldest high school graduate ever in B.C., as far as ministry can confirm

B.C. Appeal Court rules lottery winner must be paid back $600,000 loan

Enone Rosas won $4.1 million in a lottery in 2007 and loaned a portion to a friend

B.C. man surprised after used needle falls from sky

A Vernon resident said a syringe fell out of the sky and landed at his feet

Liquor review finds issues with B.C. wholesale monopoly

Report calls for ‘conflict of interest’ in system to be fixed

B.C. ‘will be ready’ for marijuana legalization

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says some stores open by Oct. 17

Polygamous wife appeals conviction in B.C. child bride case

Emily Blackmore was found guilty of taking her underage daughter to U.S. to marry church leader

Most Read