British Columbia

B.C. still has hundreds of teaching vacancies with school year weeks away

School districts across B.C. are still looking for teachers to fill hundreds of full-time and part-time positions.

Shortages in both Metro Vancouver and the Interior; province touts fund to attract teachers to those districts

November's Supreme Court decision is a large factor in the high number of teaching vacancies in B.C. (CBC)

With a little more than two weeks to go until the school year starts, hundreds of teaching positions are still unfilled across the province.

School districts are scrambling to fill multiple positions available in places like Burnaby, West Vancouver, North Vancouver and Mission.

The Vancouver School Board will be posting jobs for 280 full and part-time teachers on Tuesday, while in Abbotsford, 90 full-time and part-time teachers are still needed.

And in Surrey, home to the most number of students in one school district, around 200 more teachers are needed on call in order to "comfortably" staff the 2017-18 year.

Surrey Schools spokesperson Doug Strachan says hiring sprees are not new, given the city's rapid growth, but this year's is exceptional.

"We've been aggressive over the summer in going to universities, including going to Quebec for French Immersion teachers," he said.

"As the largest district, there are more opportunities in this district and that's attractive to teachers."

Housing crunch a problem

The B.C. Teachers' Federation says the shortage is in large part due to the huge number of positions that opened up in the spring because of the Supreme Court ruling restoring class sizes to 2002 levels.

But BCTF President Glen Hansman says many school districts were understaffed in previous years, and recruiting specialist teachers has been a particular challenge.

"We've been eager to get a plan back from the province to talk about recruitment and retention for what we can do in the long-term to get qualified people here with the right skills and get them to stay here," he said.

"There's opportunity for people who want steady, consistent work. The trick will be convincing people to come out here when they're paid a lot less and the prospect of buying a home or even renting a place… is pretty challenging."

Hansman says he's hopeful that by September "the dust will settle and everybody will be where they need to be."

Shortages in the Interior

But the issue isn't confined to the Lower Mainland.

In Williams Lake, 12 teachers are needed. Hiring new teachers for the Cariboo traditionally hasn't been as easy as Metro Vancouver, and the city's evacuation in July due to wildfires has created a new challenge.

"All our HR functions kind of came to a halt," said superintendent Mark Wintjes.

"We have gone back to Ontario, specifically, and Toronto to try and attract people. We weren't successful there but we'll continue advertising and word of mouth to find people who may want to come to the Cariboo."

In Merritt, school district superintendent Steve McNiven is struggling to find 10 full-time teachers by September.

"We've certainly had more postings, more interviews, more fillings than I've seen before," he said.

"We're feeling fairly confident: we've got some interviews taking place so we're just going to continue to post these positions and advertise them."

Ministry touts special fund

In a statement, the Ministry of Education acknowledged the hiring difficulties, especially in rural and remote areas.

The government says they are spending $2 million for a Rural and Remote Workforce Sustainability Fund that includes incentives for teachers moving to rural areas, along with hiring initiatives that look outside of B.C.

"Government is committed to fully implementing the agreement made with the BCTF and to funding the full restoration of class size and composition language," it read.

If districts are not able to fill all positions, the ministry says "remedies" are available such as "more prep time, additional teaching supports, or some other form of assistance."