More students could be learning in portables next year as the school district looks to create new classrooms. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Abbotsford schools must create 35 classrooms, hire 50 teachers by September

Classroom composition rules follow Supreme Court of Canada ruling

The Abbotsford school district aims to create 35 new classrooms and hire 50 teachers before the bells ring for the new school year in September.

Spaces currently used as preschools, multi-purpose rooms and computer labs could be converted into classrooms, and up to 15 new portables could be in use, come fall.

Teacher recruitment has also begun nationwide, including district staff attending job fairs outside the province. The district must compete with districts across the province for teachers, including Surrey, where 300 new teachers are required.

The effort follows the Supreme Court of Canada ruling requiring that B.C.’s government comply with classroom composition provisions from its 2002 contract with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

The maximum number of students allowed in Grade 4 to 12 will remain at 30, while the maximum in Grades 1 through 3 drops from 24 to 22 and from 22 to 20 for kindergarten. There is also a maximum of three special-needs students per class.

Meeting the class-size requirements “is not a big deal” for Abbotsford schools, according to the district’s secretary treasurer. Ray Velestuk said the cap on special-needs students is driving most of the need for more classrooms and teachers.

Re-organizing school divisions will mostly depend on the ratio of special-needs kids compared to schools’ student population at large. The district will not be required to create classes smaller than six fewer students than the maximum.

There is also some leeway on the special-needs student cap. The district could create “remedies” such as providing a teacher with additional preparation time if they have a class with four special-needs students.

The district may cancel as many as five rental agreements with preschools and before- and after-school programs that currently use school rooms and portables. A StrongStart early-learning program location may also be relocated.

Velestuk said organizations that had planned to use spaces during the next school year will “know very soon” whether their rental agreements will be cancelled.

Three portable classrooms will arrive this summer from the ministry of education and the district has requested 12 more.

“It’s not likely that we would have all those in place for September,” Velestuk said.

It is not known exactly where the portables will be installed but most will likely end up on east Abbotsford campuses, where schools are the most crowded.

But Velestuk said there are more factors to consider than just student population.

“We have to have room for a portable,” he said. “We don’t really want to take out all the staff parking to put portables on. We don’t want to put them on top of a sports field.”

The district may also consider changing catchment boundary changes or forced transfers, Velestuk said, but it is too late to do so for the 2017/2018 school year.

Velestuk said it wouldn’t be accurate to say the district was “frantic” to make the changes in time.

“I think we’ve got this in hand,” he said.

“The budget process and the staffing process is always a busy time for us,” he said. “It’s not that this is completely new. It’s heightened this year because there are some pretty significant changes to how we operate our schools.”

A more detailed plan will be available when the district’s finalized budget is brought to the education board on May 30, Velestuk said.

 

More students could be learning in portables next year as the school district looks to create new classrooms. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Just Posted

Star Wars auction in Langley draws ‘crazy’ response

Seller said to be “very happy” with results

Police sketch shows suspect in assault of 23-year-old woman

Incident took place Nov. 14 on Maclure Road in Abbotsford

An unpleasant surprise online for Langley anti-hate campaigner

Text from newspaper article about his efforts was used to link to suspect websites

Giants back in Langley hoping to continue winning streak

The G-Men defeated Royals in Victoria Saturday, the second triumph of the week over the same team.

Vancouver concert promoter bans Nazi symbols at shows

A man was witnessed making a Nazi salute during a heavy metal show at Pub 340

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Family suspends search for missing Alberta couple, plane near Revelstoke

Due to bad weather, families of missing Albertan couple say they will resume in the spring

Canadian grocers make $3M per year from penny-rounding: UBC study

Ottawa announced plans in 2012 to phase out the copper coin

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

‘The Last Jedi’ opens with $220M, 2nd best weekend all-time

As anticipated, the movie fell shy of the opening weekend for J.J. Abrams’ 2015 franchise reboot

2 couples tie the knot in Australia’s 1st same-sex weddings

West Australian couple Anne Sedgwick, Lyn Hawkins have been together for 40 years

EDITORIAL: Putting #MeToo to work in your workplace

Workers from top to bottom need to stand together against the bully of sexual harassment

Update: RCMP arrest domestic assault suspect west of Kamloops.

The RCMP Emergency Response Team made the arrest at around 4:30 p.m.

Most Read