Influx of newcomers leads to some crowded P.E.I. classrooms
'We have to start thinking outside the box, and changing teaching assignments,' says high school principal
Schools in Charlottetown and Stratford are understaffed and many classes are too large, says P.E.I.'s Teachers' Federation, and it's calling on the province for better planning.
There are 375 newcomer students in those schools that weren't predicted and planned for in the spring, when the Public Schools Branch laid out the number of teaching positions for each school, the federation said.
We need to be prepared to embrace and welcome people when they come.— Parker Grimmer
"It's not being dealt with fast enough. Principals find out there's more students added, classes are huge, and they try to address these needs," said federation president Bethany MacLeod.
'Thinking outside the box'
Colonel Gray High School is the most affected of all the schools. It received 50 more students than expected this fall, most of those in Grade 10.
"We have to start thinking outside the box, and changing teaching assignments," said Colonel Gray principal Dominique Lecours.
Lecours said the influx has meant some classes are too large, something the school is hoping to address in the second semester.
"It could mean for my administrators, to take on bigger assignments than they currently have, myself included."
The federation has suggested the department hire more teachers and wait to set final staffing numbers in the fall, when it knows how many students are in the province overall, and in each school.
"Then we look at those numbers that whether it be we have some substitute teachers hired, and they sub until we find out what those numbers are. But maybe have teachers in place that we can put into the system," said Bethany MacLeod, noting some teachers might need to be prepared to move around.
The department recognizes the problem and is working on ways for schools to access "more stable funding" when enrolment is higher than anticipated, a spokesperson told CBC News via email Tuesday.
'Making every effort'
The director of P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch said the students are mostly from new immigrant families who are setting up their lives and homes in the Charlottetown area.
"Having new students arrive to our P.E.I. school system — it's a good thing, but we need to be ready for them," said Parker Grimmer. "We're certainly making every effort to try to manage how we support these students as they come."
Grimmer said the students arrive throughout the year, not necessarily all at the beginning.
He said that likely won't mean hiring more teachers, but could mean creating a "bank" of itinerant teaching positions to more quickly respond to changing school populations.
"To be an inclusive, welcoming society we need to be prepared to embrace and welcome people when they come, and that includes making sure that they're welcome whenever they arrive," said Grimmer.
With files from Steve Bruce