A representative for B.C.'s school employers says the province's teacher shortage is not as dire as the B.C. Teachers' Federation has claimed.
BCTF president Glen Hansman told CBC News Tuesday that, one month into the school year, some students still don't have a full-time teacher assigned to their classroom, and some specialist teachers are being redeployed to cover vacancies and absences.
He said there are more than 1,000 vacant contract and on-call teaching positions.
"We were resistant a month ago to use the term "crisis," but there's much more than a long way to go here," Hansman said.
But Janet Stewart — the CEO of the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, which represents the senior executives of B.C.'s 60 school districts — says the situation is not that bad.
"There are definitely challenges, and we wouldn't want to underplay those challenges," Stewart said. "However, we definitely would not be describing this situation as a crisis or chaotic."
"By and large, what we're hearing from districts [around the province] is that people have been able to manage quite well and have teachers in the classrooms."
Some vacancy normal, ministry says
B.C. has been facing a teacher shortage for a number of reasons this year, chief of which is a Supreme Court of Canada decision on class size, requiring the province to hire enough teachers to match 2002 staffing levels.
The Ministry of Education says there are always vacancies at the start of the school year and that about 90 per cent of positions are occupied.
But the hiring rush is putting the squeeze on the roster of on-call teachers, which has the province looking to the rest of Canada for teacher recruitment.
"[The on-call list] has definitely been the biggest theme that we've been hearing [from districts], and, as a result, we've really focused our recruitment efforts across Canada to address that group of employees," Stewart said.
But she says it's a difficult balance, because, if too many on-call teachers are hired, there won't be enough work for them.
Stewart said that, despite the BCTF's claims of widespread vacancies, many school districts in the province, such as Surrey, are fully staffed. She also disputed Hansman's claim that specialist teachers were being assigned to cover absences.
"There are definitely situations in the province that are very challenging," Stewart said. "[But] we have an enormous amount of very qualified people in front of students in this province, and we have an excellent education system."
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.