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$1.4 million extra for Maple Ridge School District No. 42

School District No. 42 is getting $1.4 million in additional funding from the province to help teachers cope with overcrowded classrooms.

The money is part of the provincial government’s Learning Improvement Fund, first announced last year and included in the Liberals’ Bill 22, which sent striking teachers back to work in March.

While Bill 22 gets rid of district-wide limits on class size averages, the caps for individual classes still remain. The money is earmarked to pay for additional teachers, special education assistants, mentoring, relief time, added prep time, shared teaching, even teacher pay bonuses, should a class not conform to the provincial caps.

Previously, there was no specific funding set aside for class size and composition issues by the province.

“We [School District No. 42] budgeted for it, but many other districts did not,” said deputy superintendent Laurie Meston.

Should a classroom exceed 30 students, teachers are eligible for additional compensation, in the form of additional preparation time, professional development funding, classroom supplies or equipment, or even additional pay.

Classes exempt from class limits are adult continuing education classes, online classes, alternate programs, grad transition and leadership classes, music and performing arts classes, work/study programs, and specialty academies.

Meston said non-conforming class sizes are only an issue at the secondary level, and under the consultation process, teachers and school administrators would have to agree to a class plan, which would then be approved by a committee made up of members of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association and school district staff.

“As long as I’m in this chair, we’ll never have an intermediate class with 30 kids,” she said.

The added funding will also mean the local school district will be able to put staff in place in the spring prior to the start of the school year, instead of having to wait until after school starts in September.

“We’re hoping it won’t be quite as scrambly,” said Meston.

New legislation also requires teachers and school administrators to consult and collaborate to determine appropriate class organization and placement of special needs students.

“We have a base build on thanks to years of working collaboratively with the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association,” said Meston.

Previously, consultation was required only in cases where there were more than three students with special needs in a given class or when a Grades 4-to-12 class exceeded the 30-student limit.

In all, the provincial government is spending $60 million this year and next on the Learning Improvement Fund, with a bump to $75 million in 2014.

The province had originally promised $30 million for school districts this year, but bumped that amount to $60 million thanks to savings from the teachers’ strike in March.

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