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More teachers, smaller classes greet North Shore students

September 06, 2017

​Staff changes, classrooms added as kids back in school

By Jane Seyd / North Shore News

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Thousands of kids headed back to school this week on the North Shore to school districts with more classes, more teachers and a bit more juggling of classrooms and students as the school year gets underway.

Both North Vancouver and West Vancouver school districts have had more staff changes to contend with this summer than they have in many years, the result of a provincewide teacher hiring binge that has seen many school districts competing for staff.

High housing costs on the North Shore have proved an issue in attracting some teachers.

“We’re losing our staff who may live in Surrey, Burnaby or Squamish,” said Chris Kennedy, superintendent of schools for West Vancouver. “The affordability of the North Shore is an issue.”

The story is similar in North Vancouver, although both superintendents said some teachers who live on the North Shore and had been commuting to other school districts have applied for jobs closer to home.

“Where they live is a key determinant,” said Kennedy.

Most regular classroom teachers should be in place by this week, said Mark Pearmain, superintendent of schools for North Vancouver.

New rules about classroom size and composition has resulted in about 30 new classes at the elementary level and a similar number of new classes in secondary schools, said Pearmain.

In total, the district has hired 69 new teachers for this year. About 15 new teachers have been hired in West Vancouver, in both regular classrooms and specialist positions. West Vancouver will see eight new classes this year at the elementary level.

While the first day of school typically only lasts a couple of hours for students, it provides an important function for school administrators – seeing which kids actually show up.

That allows staff to confirm or reorganize class lists, based on the limits for class size and composition.

Because of those new limits this year – the result of a Supreme Court of Canada decision in November – it’s possible there will be more classes at the elementary level combining two grades than in previous years, said Pearmain.

Preliminary estimates by school officials suggest the number of students in North Vancouver is expected to be down by the equivalent of 168 students – to 14,887 compared to last year’s 15,055.

In West Vancouver, figures are expected to edge up.

This summer 150 new students registered for school in West Vancouver, compared to 100 students last summer, said Kennedy. “That signals something to us,” he said.

Kennedy said many West Vancouver schools are full, especially those on the eastern side of the district. “We’re running close to max,” he said.

Smaller class sizes and the result of more classes has resulted in a space crunch for both North Shore school districts – echoing a trend seen across the Lower Mainland.

Over the summer, portable classrooms have been added to Highlands, Lynn Valley, Ross Road, and Brooksbank elementaries.

One portable planned for Dorothy Lynas school wasn’t needed after a child care that had been operating out of a classroom there was able to find other space in advance of their deadline to move, said Pearmain.

Classroom space has also being created from rooms previously dedicated to other uses at four other elementary schools.

In West Vancouver, four new portables will help provide classrooms at Westcot, Irwin Park, Chartwell and West Bay schools.

Cedardale, Westcot and Chartwell have also been renovated to convert space previously used for other activities into classrooms.

© 2017 North Shore News. Click here to read the full article, originally published in the North Shore News.