School District 23 ready for smaller class sizes this year

Schools in the Central Okanagan went through renovations over the summer to create 59 new classrooms to make room for dozens of new teachers in time for the first day of school.

It follows last year's Supreme Court of Canada decision and subsequent memorandum of understanding between the province and the teacher’s union that restored class sizes to the level they were in 2002, meaning smaller.

In total, 170 new teachers were hired by the district for the school year, however that includes both teachers needed to reduce class sizes and also to fill routine retirements and departures.

“We’ve been working on it proactively since the decision was made,” says School District 23 Superintendent Kevin Kaardal “We actually brought back a person who had retired from the human resources department and he became a recruiter.”

School districts in the Lower Mainland have reported having difficulty hiring all the teachers they need, some saying they might not have enough in time for the first day of school but Kaardal says that isn’t an issue for the Central Okanagan.

To create new classrooms for more, smaller, classes, the district looked at all the spaces in the district, school by school.

“There were spaces that were being used for other purposes, that used be classrooms,” Kaardal said “Maybe they were a collaborative space, where it was multi-purpose room, people would use that and now we’ve dedicated that, or perhaps we had a large multi-purpose room and now we’ve divided it and created two classrooms so you created another space that way.”

Despite the preparations, with an expected enrolment higher than last year’s 104%, space may still be a problem.

“We’re ready to roll if we get the projected enrolment that we expect,” said Kaardal “If we get beyond that, we are already over capacity and it will be a challenge for us, and in some schools already last year and this year we are having to divert some students because the schools are full.”

Concrete enrollment numbers are expected a couple of weeks after the first day of school.