Greater Victoria School District hires 200 new teachers

A handful of new teaching staff coming to Oak Bay schools.

Around 200 teaching staff will be joining the Greater Victoria School District this new school year, thanks to a province-wide push to up the numbers of teachers in school districts.

The boost in teachers comes from the province providing $330 million to fund 2,600 new teacher positions in B.C.

Of the 200 hirings in Greater Victoria, 160 were “necessary” positions to be filled in classrooms and other instructional roles, and additional teachers are now on the teacher-on-call list as well.

“How it influences us is super exciting. I think it’s great for us as a school district to be welcoming all these new teachers to our district,” said Greater Victoria Area School District Superintendent Piet Langstraat, adding in many cases, the new staff are are young, starting teachers.

“To be able to provide that opportunity is fantastic.”

There were 34 postings for hire for district schools in Oak Bay, though they they were not strictly teaching positions, as it included custodial and educational assistants.

Langstraat said the boost in teaching staff is a “really good thing” as it’s certainly going to lower class sizes around the school district. In addition to more teachers, the Victoria school district created 84 new classrooms, renovating some of its schools and turning some spaces into classrooms.

A total of 13 new portables have been added across the district as well.

While the addition of more teachers is a big benefit, shortage of staff in Victoria, particularly in Oak Bay schools, hasn’t really been an issue, noted Langstraat.

“There’s teacher shortage widely reported, which is true for the province, but for the schools in Oak Bay, the short answer is no, there is no such shortage,” he said, adding that all positions were successfully filled. “We’ve been fortunate… our human resources department has done incredible work this spring and summer to fill these positions, all of which are filled.”

New teachers will also take a special teacher mentorship program a week before the start of the school year.

“On the capital and teaching side of things, we are well-prepared, and financially, we worked really closely with the Ministry of Education around planning and budgeting, so we’re coming into the school year financially in good shape, so the ministry can provide us with the funding that we need.”

Those 2,600 teachers didn’t come easy. The B.C. Liberal government signed a deal in March providing $330 million to fund 2,600 new teacher positions, to comply with a November 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that ended a 15-year court battle over contract language governing class size and special needs support ratios.

The court case cost the B.C. government $2.6 million in legal costs.

The B.C. education ministry issued a statement this week saying progress is being made to hire teachers to meet the agreement reached between the former government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

“We’ve been advised that most school districts are successfully hiring the teachers they need to be in compliance with the [agreement] with the BCTF – and also to meet local enrolment growth,” the ministry said.

When the agreement with the union was reached, the ministry established a $2 million fund for rural and remote school districts to help recruit and retain teachers.

Teachers can agree to take additional preparation time, extra teaching support or other forms of assistance, if approved by them and their union local.

octavian.lacatusu@oakbaynews.com

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