School is back in session after summer break and School District 70 (SD70) enrolment numbers are expected to be similar to last year.
“We really won’t know for sure until the end of September, but it’s around 3,750 (in SD70 schools),” said SD70 board chair Pam Craig. “I suspect it will be slightly higher but we won’t know for sure.”
Craig said every class has a teacher but there’s still some room for new hires—teachers with special skills—that should come later in the year.
“Some teachers move to other districts so we’ve added new people…but there’s not necessarily a new bunch of positions,” Craig said. “All the classrooms are designated with a teacher, so we’re in really good shape compared with some of the more rural districts.”
Alberni District Teachers Union president Ken Zydyk said the union has raised concerns that not enough new teachers have been hired.
“We’re sort of going to be looking at that next week and seeing what the enrolment is and what the class organization is and going from there,” Zydyk said. “We were concerned that there were not enough hiring of teachers done in the spring.”
Zydyk believes about 15 to 20 new teachers are needed in the district to accommodate class size limits.
“We raised that concern in the spring and there weren’t any changes made so we’ll be following up beginning of next week,” he said.
Four portables have been ordered for SD70 schools to accommodate students—two for Wickaninnish Community School, one for Ucluelet Elementary School and one for Wood Elementary School—that Craig said have been delayed in arriving. She said until they arrive, expected on Sept.8, other rooms in the schools may be utilized for classroom use like computer labs or the library.
As for school upgrades, work on Maquinna Elementary School’s parking lot is ongoing, John Howitt Elementary’s new HVAC system is almost complete and Wood Elementary will receive HVAC work in the fall.
“Another really wonderful thing that has happened is the city has done a lot of work on Compton Road this year,” Craig said. “That’s a real bonus for the safety of kids coming to school at Neill.”
Compton Roads shoulder was widened and the ditch on one side of the road will be filled in with a storm drain and covered with an asphalt apron.
Craig added that no changes will be made to bus routes and that they will remain the same as last year.
“There may be adjustments later in the fall as we get to know where all the kids are from,” she said.