SURREY — The Surrey School District will soon hire more than 100 teachers, but it’s not yet known where they will go.
“Our only concern is trying to figure out where the space is going to be,” Surrey school board’s vice chairperson Laurie Larsen told the Now. “There is a growing concern in Surrey for students – we’re overcrowded and have so many portables as it is,” she said, adding many schools can’t take any more portables due to fire regulations and parking.
The Ministry of Education and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation recently came to an agreement to add more than 1,000 teachers, and for Surrey, it means more than 100 teachers, officials say.
The $50-million agreement comes after the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling to restore contract language and class-size and class-composition deleted in 2002. The decision found the B.C. government acted wrongly when it stripped such limits from teachers’ contracts.
“It’s a dilemma,” Larsen said of the issues that come with the new hires.
“But it’s a good dilemma to be in.”
‘Double whammy’ for Surrey
School board chair Shawn Wilson said the real trouble won’t begin until September.
“I think as the next few months go by and we get solid numbers on what classroom sizes will actually be, that will then trigger what will probably be a couple hundred more teachers,” Wilson told the Now.
“We will be able to do the (first round of hiring) with a little bit of stress, but nowhere near the level we will see once it’s all settled and September comes around. We have to find space for all these people.
“We were already squeezed by growth and now we’re being squeezed by this class size ruling,” Wilson added. “It’s a double whammy for Surrey.”
He’s hoping the province will expedite some new Surrey schools on the books, but that doesn’t solve the immediate problem as it can take two years or longer to go through the process of tendering, designing and constructing new schools.
“You still have to live with the problem even if you knew you could open doors in two years, that’s two years of troubles,” said Wilson.
In a message to teachers Tuesday (Jan. 10), written in partnership with Surrey Teachers’ Association President Gioia Breda, District Superintendent Jordan Tinney said the new hires would be working in the “coming weeks.”
“The District and the Surrey Teachers’ Association have established a joint committee and are working together to identify our priorities,” the letter states. “We anticipate hiring enrolling and non-enrolling teachers in both regular and specialist positions.”
Meanwhile, BCTF president Glen Hansman said its first goal was to get as many teachers back in schools and classrooms as quickly as possible, but “the second and most important goal – full implementation of the 2002 collective agreement language – will now be the focus of talks between the two parties.”