Expect big changes in Sooke schools this fall

More teachers, smaller classes, more students on the horizon

The Sooke School District can expect to see changes this fall as class sizes get smaller and staff is increased across the district.

School district superintendent Jim Cambridge said approximately 100 teachers were hired this spring, along with other staff such as librarians and counsellors.

The reason? A Canadian Supreme Court decision restored clauses deleted from the teachers contract by the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell in 2002 dealing with class size, the number of special needs students who can be in a class and the number of specialist teachers required in schools.

The decision forced immediate changes in the B.C. education system earlier this year and will echo into the system this fall.

In the Sooke district, class sizes have shrunk and the district is planning to build 32 new spaces, 22 of which will be portable additions and 10 existing labs converted into classrooms.

“Finding space has been our biggest challenge,” said Cambridge. “Trying to make room has been difficult because we are growing at the same time as we are reducing class sizes.”

Board chair Ravi Parmar, said the district is booming, having 60 new students enter Sooke Elementary School two years agothe year before last, and more than 500 new students entering the district every year the past two years.

“The staff will be very busy making sure we have space for the kids come September,” said Parmar. “But we want to continue to grow and we have experienced staff who know how to get the job done.”

Cambridge said he believes the teachers and families will be quite happy to have less people in a class because it will reduce teachers’ work load and there will be more one-on-one time available for students.

The project has been fully funded by the provincial government and all the portables have been ordered. The district is hoping to have everything built and delivered by the beginning of September.

“So far the [teachers] union is very happy with how things are going, and I hope the staff and families will be happy as well,” said Cambridge.

“I think the most obvious benefit of all this is that students can expect more teacher time, and I hope that eventually we will see better learning outcomes for students.”