British Columbia

B.C. school boards prepare for change after Supreme Court of Canada ruling

The Richmond and Surrey school boards discuss the possible changes that could occur after the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the B.C. Teachers' Federation.

Union has said negotiations will centre around restoration of class size and composition to 2002 levels

The back of students' heads can be seen as they listen to a teacher at the front of a classroom.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of B.C. teachers' right to bargain class size and composition. (Shutterstock/Syda Productions)

School boards across B.C. are preparing for changes resulting from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of B.C. teachers.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court restored the B.C. Teachers' Federation right to negotiate class size and composition, which had been stripped by Gordon Campbell's government in 2002.

The union has said new negotiations will centre around the restoration of class size and composition to 2002 levels. Before 2002, the class size limit for kindergarten was 20. Now it's 22. For primary it was 22, now 24. Class sizes for Grades 4 to 12 had no firm limit, only a guideline not to exceed 30 students.

While no concrete decisions have yet been made, Surrey School Board chair Shawn Wilson is worried about how his city's already overcrowded school system will accommodate smaller class sizes.

"It would mean a strong and high dependence on more portables until capital funds are secured," he said. "It would be a dramatic increase for an already difficult situation for the Surrey School District."

Richmond School Board chair Debbie Tablotney said while she's very thankful for any extra funding, facilities in her district also need funding.

"We still need to upgrade our facilities, so we're wondering how that will affect our seismic upgrades moving forward," she explained.

Tablotney also pointed out many extra teachers might need to be hired to meet the new criteria — which would put additional demands on the system.

"Our staffing levels, especially in human resources, are going to need to be beefed up as well, if they're going to have to go into the hiring process and finding people. That's going to be a big task."

While both agreed that having a lower teacher-student ratio would improve the student experience, both are waiting to see how substantial the changes will be and whether they'll get the provincial funding to properly implement it.

"It's going to be interesting where we go from here," Wilson said.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Richmond and Surrey boards react to BCTF Supreme Court win