School District 57 teachers and school support staff worried about the removal of limits on class composition and class sizes as a result of Bill 22 legislation aired their beefs to trustees at Tuesdays public board meeting.
The Education Improvement Act passed last March to legislate striking teachers back to work removed the requirement of B.C. school boards to publicly report on class size and composition twice each school year and Matt Pearce, president of the Prince George District Teachers Association, urged trustees to reinstate that policy.
Bill 22 struck down upper limits on class sizes in Grades 4-12 and Pearce reminded the board of the example of Grade 10 science class last school year which had one second-year teacher overseeing a class of 30 students, 11 of which had individual education plans.
This year, weve hearing some worrisome things, that the composition around the district has deteriorated, said Pearce. Ive heard about a calculus 12 class with 37 students to start the year. The concern is that if youre one of those 37 students you might not want to stick it out because you realize you might not get the attention you need to be successful in that situation.
Education Minister Don McRae has promised to issue province-wide reports on class size and composition in classrooms and Pearce implored trustees to follow the lead of the Qualicum school board when it adopted a motion in August to require its superintendent to continuing reporting on those topics twice per school year.
The new law also affects education assistants who work in classrooms concentrating on students with special needs or those with behavioural problems. Lorraine Prouse, president of CUPE local 3742, told the board of one educational assistant working in two blocks of science classes who has only a half an hour to work with groups of 10 students each. Until Bill 22 was passed, principals had to consult with teachers if any classroom contained any more than three students with individual education plans.
In an hour, how do work with 20 students that need help in a high school, its frustrating, said Prouse. Now if nobodys reporting [on class composition issues] they can just add students on and most of them wont say anything [to the union) because they want to help the kids.
We dont have to be like the rest of the province. We can take a stand.
Trustee Kate Cooke made a notice of motion to discuss at the October board meeting whether to require superintendent Brian Pepper or a designate to report to the board twice year, in October and May, on class size and class composition.
Two Prince George schools will be replaced beginning in the 2014-15 school year as part of the school districts five-year capital plan approved at Tuesdays board meeting. A new Kelly Road secondary school will be built at a cost of $38.6 million, and the newly-renamed Nusdeh Yoh elementary school (formerly Aboriginal Choice school), a $7.3 million project, are the two big-ticket items on the districts horizon. Also contained in the 2014-15 budget is a $4.8 million expansion slated for D.P. Todd secondary school, which will increase student capacity from the current 625 to 750.
The district has already earmarked $1.7 million to fund a geothermal heating upgrades at College Heights elementary school as part of the current school year budget, and a similar project at Quinson elementary for 2013-14.
The boards total assets at the end of June 2012, including education ministry funding, all investments, cash and capital assets amounted to $150,569,189, as highlighted in a financial statement from the accounting firm KPMG approved Tuesday by trustees. Teachers salaries accounted for $51,677,218, the largest expenditure in the 2012-13 budget. An unappropriated surplus of $3.48 million was set aside for future budgets, part of a $13.15 million fund to pay for future operations.
The board approved a draft policy to provide schools with guidance on the care and display of flags on school properties, to be distributed to reference groups. All schools are required to display the flags of Canada and British Columbia as part of the School Act. Superintendent Brian Pepper reported to the board there are 12 schools that do not allow staff to raise and lower flags, as required, and to replace each of those poles would cost an estimated $10,000.