Overcrowded metal and wood shop classes unsafe, says Mission teacher
Douglas McNeill says too many students jammed into shop with welding torches, saws, grinders
A Mission teacher is raising the alarm about the size of metal and wood shop classes where students, including those with special needs, share space with welding torches, grinders and table saws.
Douglas McNeill has been teaching high school students about welding, metal and wood working for 30 years. He says classes used to have a maximum of 24 students and no more than three students with special needs.
Today, he says, his shop has as many as nine special needs children in classes of up to 28 students.
"I have to be very, very strict with what they're doing," he told CBC News. "I've reduced some of the curriculum that we teach because it's too crowded in here."
McNeill says every oversize shop class in the province is putting children at risk. If things go wrong, he says, the consequences are much worse than in a regular classroom.
Public school teachers in B.C. have been trying to forge a new contract with the B.C. government and class size is a major bargaining issue.
In January, a shop teacher in Chilliwack walked away from his job over safety concerns and overcrowded classrooms.
In February, the B.C. Court of Appeal granted the provincial government an injunction delaying the implementation of smaller class sizes pending its appeal of an earlier B.C. Supreme Court ruling on the issue.
For his part, McNeill says the Mission school district has been supportive of his concerns.
The B.C. government says class size is a district decision and expects all classroom safety procedures to be followed.
McNeill is set to retire in May.
With files from the CBC's Meera Bains