UPDATE: Court ruling comes with $23 million price tag for district

The district says changes could be adding 17 portables, moving students around, closing preschools, daycares and cutting programs.

Suzanne Hoffman

It would cost the Langley School District $23 million in this current school year should class sizes and composition be restored to 2002 levels as per the Supreme Court ruling, said Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman.

“The district was asked to analyze the cost of the court ruling, to provide logistics and how those logistics would impact our budget,” said Hoffman at Tuesday night’s board of education meeting.

“We spent a very long weekend compiling the report where we looked at ratios of teacher librarians to be hired, teacher ratios, space in schools to accommodate new classrooms and would that impact our closed schools.”

The class size formula used in 2002 would require some current classes to be split up, requiring more classrooms.

The District estimated that it would have to hire 228 full-time teachers to meet 2002 requirements. Assuming an average annual compensation of $92,000 (including benefits) this amounts to $20.98 million for new hires.

Of those 228 new teachers, 32.6 will be teacher librarians and ELL teachers.

Hoffman cites that the district may have some recruitment issues, particularly with respect to teacher-librarians.

The district may have to add 17 portables assuming that space can be located for portables. The alternative option includes moving students to other schools or turning other purpose rooms, like computer labs into classroom space.

The district says it would have “little choice” but to terminate current rental contracts with six preschool and daycares so it can reclaim those classrooms. It may also mean closing some Strong Start programs.

To pay for the $23 million new cost pressures, the district would have to cut programs and lay off non-teaching staff.

Hoffman said it was Rick Davis, the B.C. government’s Superintendent of Achievement, who asked for the report which she signed and provided.

Langley Teachers Association president Gail Chaddock-Costello also spoke about the court ruling to trustees.

“The government filed an appeal on Feb. 4 and that will likely be heard in May or June,” she said.

“Looking forward there will be challenges. You can’t take $275 million out of a [education] budget and then have to reinstate it without challenges.

“But it’s not like this board hasn’t faced challenges before. Every year teachers are released. We have closed schools and reconfigured others. I suggest it’s time to make this language [around class sizes and configuration] work for us.”

When the Liberals announced their balanced budget last week, it didn’t include any new funding for education, nor did it include any funding provisions for the cost of the court ruling.

To that, trustee Cecilia Reekie said the B.C. School Trustees Association is expressing “disappointment” that the government didn’t see children’s education as a priority.

Teachers are set to take a strike vote March 4 to 6.

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