The new school year brought many changes in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District, which is orientating approximately 200 new staff.
Due to changes in class size legislation, combined with increasing enrolment, there are 150 new teachers in the district. The other 50 are support staff.
There have also been many district administrators given new assignments.
Hiring 200 new employees has been a reversal of fortunes for a school board that spent years looking for budget cuts.
“Having that many new teachers and new staff in the district is significant,” said board chair Mike Murray.
“It certainly brings a lot of new resources to the classroom, and we’re very appreciative of that – smaller class sizes and a lot of new staff and new perspectives from their previous experiences.”
The hiring began in January of the last school year after the B.C. Teachers’ Federation won a 14-year court battle with the provincial government over the union’s right to bargain class size and composition.
Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra noted the district’s total number of teachers had been between 1,000 and 1,100, so adding 150 is “a pretty significant jump.”
He said last year no class sizes were reduced in the middle of the year, so teachers will notice that change this September.
“I’m anticipating folks are going to appreciate being able to spend more time with their students,” he said.
He added that for many tasks, whether it be marking, creating student reports or communicating with parents, there will be more time because there are fewer students per teacher.
Serra noted the contract language reinstated by the courts was bargained in the 1990s, before provincial bargaining, so each district got back locally bargained language about class size and composition.
Teachers in Maple Ridge opted to forego salary and benefits in favour of better working conditions during those decades-old negotiations, so the class size language here is better than in some districts, said Serra.
The school district reports enrolment has increased at the elementary level, and there are 100 more kindergarten students than there were last September.
The district has not compiled exact enrolment numbers at this time.
The school year brought some high profile retirements and principal shuffles.
Clayton Maitland has retired as principal of the Environmental school. Longtime Enviro school teacher Randy Bates has stepped in as the acting vice-principal.
Laurie Meston also retired as deputy superintendent.
Albion, Blue Mountain, Glenwood, Whonnock, Yennadon and Maple Ridge elementary schools all have new principals as a result of staff being shuffled.
This will be the first year in a principal role for Anelma Brown, who is now at Glenwood, and was previously a vice-principal at SRT.
There are also numerous changes at the secondary level:
• Garibaldi has an additional acting vice-principal this year in Kirsten Urdahl-Serr;
• Pitt Meadows secondary also has an additional vice-principal in Denis Drapeau (acting), who previously taught at Maple Ridge secondary;
• SRT has two new vice-principals in Ken Elphick (acting), who was a teacher-librarian at MRSS, and Steve Cater (acting), who comes from PMSS;
• Westview secondary also has an additional vice-principal in Karl Lindgren-Streicher (acting).