The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district is already in the process of hiring up to 25 teachers for the present school year, with more expected in September.
The B.C. government lost its 14-year court battle with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation over class size and composition language in November, and the first step was to inject $50 million into the system province-wide.
School District No. 42’s share of that money will be $1.2 million, for half of a school year.
Province-wide, more than 1,000 teachers are being hired.
“It’s clearly just an interim measure,” said Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra.
He explained that it will take more to restore the BCTF collective agreement, which the government stripped in 2002. But the two sides have to complete negotiations.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Serra said.
Now, he added, there is a scramble for school districts to hire the teachers who have been working only on an on-call basis.
Teachers who have been working for multiple districts in order to get enough hours are suddenly in a position to choose between employers.
Another wave of hirings must follow in short order because high school students will be looking at course books in February and March. They will need to know what courses will be available, said Serra.
Based on population, about 60 per cent of the new teachers will be at the elementary level, and 40 per cent at high schools.
The province’s school districts were bystanders in the battle between the government and the BCTF, but the Supreme Court of Canada decision gives them more resources.
The decision overturned the B.C. Court of Appeal’s 2015 ruling in favour of the provincial government, and restored the original decision in the union’s favour by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin.
“We are very, very happy about that announcement,” local school board chair Mike Murray said of the $50 million infusion. “It’s a significant number of teachers. It will mean additional people where we are stretched.”
He said staff are still working with the MRTA on exactly where the new teachers will be working. The funds will be used to add classroom teachers as well as counsellors, teacher-librarians special education teachers and other specialists.
“The challenge is finding the right people with the right skills,” said Murray. “But that is a short-term problem. In the long-term, there’s no question we will be able to fill those positions.”
Another problem is finding classrooms for the new teachers.
Murray said the schools in the eastern subdivisions of Maple Ridge are full beyond their capacity, and the district awaits approval for funding to build a new elementary school in the Albion area.
The BCTF said that the provincial government must still provide significantly more funding to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling.
“It’s a start. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Serra.