Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Soft Cap increases worry local teachers

Class sizes are once again a hot topic among educators in the Prince Rupert School District as more than 60 classes at Charles Hays Secondary have been tagged to exceed the Bill 33 limits. The legislation introduced last year, was designed to address class size and composition concerns within the education system, but provided a bit of a caveat at the discretion of the school’s principal and the superintendent of schools.

The decision to allow the cap limit to be exceeded has provided the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union with a platform, to once again raise the alarm over the creeping levels of class sizes and other concerns of the local system.

The Daily News provided a backgrounder on the issue on the front page of Monday’s newspaper.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Monday, December 18, 2006
Page one

The school board has approved a move by district staff to allow more than 60 classes at Charles Hays to exceed Bill 33 limits.

The legislation, introduced last year to address class size and composition issues, placed overall limits of 30, and no more than three individualized education program students (IEP) students per class.

The ‘soft caps’ can be exceeded if a school’s principal and the superintendent of schools agree the arrangement won’t affect learning.

“I’ve received the consultation reports that (Principal Sandra Jones) had prepared for me, and I agree the classes are educationally sound,” said Brian Kangas, superintendent of schools.

“There are 36 child care workers to support those classes where there are no more than 30 students as well as in those classes where there are more than three IEP students.”

At Hays this school year there are only five classes with more than 30 students, however there are 57 that have more than three IEP’s – essentially any students that require a special education program.

While teachers can block attempts to exceed Bill 33 limits at the elementary school level, teachers at the high school level were simply given ‘consultation’ rights that could be over-ruled.

“We don’t believe it is educationally sound,” said Marty Bowles, Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union (PRDTU) president. “Bill 33 was put in place to try and get the class size and composition down to educationally sound numbers and this simply isn’t the case.”

“We would like to see the class size and composition numbers where they belong.”

While Bowles said teachers will gladly accept any help they can get, having child care workers available for these classes was not the intent of the government’s legislation.

“Overall in the district, we’ve made some improvements, some situations are better, but not all of them,” he said.

“We appreciate the board doing what it can with its surplus but at the same time the province needs to step up to the plate and fun Bill 33 with what it needs.

“You need to hire more teachers, you need to hire more staff in general to get the class composition and the size to where it belongs.”

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