New trustees, more teachers: Vancouver School Board heads into 2018

The Vancouver School Board started the school year without trustees, no official superintendent and a shortage of teachers.

'It’s a good time to be looking forwards in public education,' says chair of VSB

Vancouver School Board Chair Janet Fraser is hoping this term will go a little more smoothly than the last one. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

The Vancouver School Board started the school year without trustees, no official superintendent and a shortage of teachers.

Classes for the second half of the year started on Monday and VSB Chair Janet Fraser says she's hoping this term will go a little more smoothly than the last one.

"It's a good time to be looking forward in public education," Fraser said.

"We are back as an elected board. We are spending some time getting to learn about the district and we have a provincial government that I think is very sympathetic to public education."

The new VSB board was sworn in at the end of October, with school trustees from all different parties winning seats.

Three candidates were elected from the Green Party, three from Vision Vancouver, two from the Non-Partisan Association and one with OneCity.

The makeup of the board, with no party holding majority, is promising, Fraser told CBC Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

"We're already seeing a less partisan board," she said. "Everyone who has been elected by the people of Vancouver is there for the right reason."

Suzanne Hoffman, the new superintendent, started this week.

The Vancouver School Board started the school year without trustees, no official superintendent and a shortage of teachers. 6:27

Challenges of space, hiring

Most of the nearly 500 teachers needed at the beginning of the school year have been hired, although keeping all the positions filled is still a challenge, Fraser said.

"We get ongoing retirements and resignations and as we fill positions, more empty positions come up," she said.

In mid-December, about 50 teaching positions were open. 

Part of the issue is the high cost of living in Vancouver compared to other school districts.

A $1,500 moving allowance for teachers arriving from outside the province was implemented last year and Fraser said the provincial government is considering other ways to encourage teachers to work in Vancouver.

"I'm hoping that will come in the next few weeks so that we can take action on those areas," she said.

In the meantime, VSB is reviewing choice programs, such as the French immersion program, which is facing a teacher shortage and a lack of space for students.

"We can't offer a high quality sustainable program, if we don't have teachers who are well qualified in French to be able to teach," she said.

"We are looking at what we can offer and those numbers will be available as registration starts on the 15th [of January] for next year."

With files from The Early Edition.