New statistics released by the Sooke school district reveals the region has the fastest growing school enrolment in B.C.
School enrolment for the 2018-2019 school year is 10,860 students – an increase of 400 students from the previous year.
“We grow at about four per cent a year. That amounts to the equivalent of a mid-sized elementary school,” said Lindsay Vogan, the district’s spokesperson.
The news came in the same week as the B.C. Teachers’ Federation met with the province to discuss under funding in education and the ongoing teacher shortage.
“After B.C. teachers won at the Supreme Court of Canada, most people thought a lot of the outstanding issues in [kindergarten] to [Grade]12 education would be resolved,” said BCTF first vice-president Teri Mooring.
“Unfortunately, the shortage of teachers across the province has prevented school districts from properly implementing teachers’ restored class-composition standards and specialist-teacher ratios.”
Sooke school district superintendent Scott Stinson said the challenges presented by increasing enrolment and the requirements of the restored teacher’s contract in Sooke has not resulted teacher shortages locally.
“It was a challenging year, last year when 1,000 new teachers had to be hired in B.C. to meet the requirements, but we were able to hire and place the teachers we needed,” Stinson said.
“This year we’re in an even better position as we’ve been able to fill out positions for integration support for special needs students and for French immersion teachers.”
He added the district has also managed to build up its cadre of on-call teachers to cover for teacher absences.
But while the district has managed to address the staffing requirements of increased enrolment, the facilities question remains a challenge.
“After 15 years of neglect, B.C. has an opportunity to make the necessary investments that will put our public education system on a stable footing. While teachers have been pleased to see several important announcements on capital funding, there has been little change to the long-term pattern in operating funds for school districts,” Mooring said.
In Sooke, Stinson admitted increased enrolment coupled with the decreases in class sizes ordered by the courts created some problems within the district.
“Our biggest challenge is about space for students in their catchment schools. We’re relying on portables because it takes a while to work through the Ministry [of Education] on the construction of new schools,” Stinson said.
“We’ve also renovated interior spaces to make (new) classroom spaces in schools.”
The district’s 2018-2019 capital plan submission to the provincial government asks for a new school at SunRiver in 2020-2021 and the replacement of a school in Sooke in the same year.
Vogan said the district is hopeful it will have an answer to those requests by December.
“As long as we continue to work with the ministry, we should be in a good position to face the challenges of the future,” Stinson said.