Island schools deal with fewer teachers

School principals are busy figuring out how to function with fewer teachers when school starts next week.

School principals are busy figuring out how to function with fewer teachers when school starts next week.

Seana Evans-Renaud, principal at Montague High School, says she'll have two fewer teachers on staff, and that means there'll be fewer courses offered to students.

"There isn't a flexibility in a timetable. So students will find that if in second semester they might need a certain course, well we might have only been able to offer it in first semester," Evans-Renaud said.

The province has cut 34 full-time teaching positions around the Island.

Education Minister Allan MacIsaac says with declining enrollment, the average student-teacher ratio will barely increase.

"You never like to remove teachers from the system. But with budgetary constraints, we've worked through this very well and the impact will be minimal," MacIsaac said.

The school board ultimately decided which schools could afford to lose positions based on student and teacher numbers.

The president of the P.E.I. Teachers' Federation says some have lost as many as five full-time positions, and unlike MacIsaac, he doesn't think the impact will be minimal.

"There's programming that has been cut in some schools. There's larger classes in other schools.  There's different types of initiatives, though the principals are really good to juggle around," Gilles Arsenault said.

"General level courses, we like to have a maximum of 24 students, some of those are actually exceeding 24. Some are at 28 or 29," Evans-Renaud confirmed.

Evans-Renaud says students' overall education won't suffer.

"Teachers are also famous for doing more with less, and they will step up and do the work where they deliver the curriculum to students,"  Evans-Renaud said.

There are more cuts to come though beyond this school year — the province says another 25 full-time positions will be eliminated over the next three years, mostly through retirement.

The federation says it will continue pushing to try and change government's plan.

"We still have one of the best student teacher ratios in the country, and we're very pleased with that," MacIsaac said. "We did go through a reduction, but we're very pleased with where we are."