It’s a few weeks later than usual, but students in the Vernon School District have at last wrapped up their first week of the 2014/15 school year.
District superintendent Joe Rogers said the first week has gone well, with elementary enrolment up slightly from projection and secondary enrolment numbers still being finalized.
“I know that teachers had to work extra time to finish up all of their stuff from last June in their room in order to get their classes organized,” he said. “But all schools have their divisions made and teachers are back in their regular classes for the rest of the year. We do not have to add any divisions at elementary schools, so the staffing we’ve supplied has been fine.”
The Ministry of Education has extended the deadline for submitting enrolment figures from its usual Sept. 30 date to Oct. 17 to give districts across the province time to finalize numbers.
At the secondary level, Rogers said those numbers are updated daily as students change courses or do online studies they began during the teachers’ strike. Secondary students must have a full load of eight classes in order for the district to receive its full funding for that student.
Fulton secondary school has undergone the largest scheduling change. The school normally operates on a quarter — or Copernican — system but for the rest of the year will switch to a regular semester timetable to make up for lost time.
“The ministry would not move the November and April exams, but moved the January exams into February, so Fulton has had to switch to make sure their students are given the best advantage to do well,” said Rogers, adding that the district has had to incur extra funding for the added staffing required by the switch in timetable.
After the long round of job action and bargaining between the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, teachers are happy to be back in the classroom, said Vernon Teachers’ Association president Heather Malcolm.
“Teachers pulled things together to prepare for and welcome their new students and everyone was happy to return to some routine,” she said. “Teachers are professionals and strive to create the best possible learning environment. Very long hours were put in this week and will likely continue in order to make that happen.”
Teachers had one day to return to their classrooms and prepare for students to start on Monday.
“It was chaotic to say the least,” said Malcolm. “We have dozens of teachers who changed schools and had to move to a new building and set up a new room in one day. Other teachers had a change in grade or course assignment.”
Malcolm said that while the new collective agreement has some increased funding for class size and composition, the new classes do not look a lot different from previous years.
“There is still some funding from the Ministry of Education to come through that will hire more teachers and provide more support to students,” she said. “These funds still won’t be enough and we need trustees and parents to stay vigilant advocates for better support in schools.”