Back to school this year means unrolling the new curriculum and adding more teachers to accommodate smaller class sizes.
In November last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the B.C. teacher’s union allowing them to restore class size limits and the number of support staff for special needs students, after determining that the 2002 legislation put in place by the former Liberal government was unconstitutional. The court’s decision also resulted in the need for 3,500 more teachers across the province.
Prince Rupert has had 14 more teachers added to the school district, said School District 52’s new superintendent, Ken Minnette. Class size limits has mainly affected the specialized classes, such as labs and woodworking.
“The numbers used to be 30 [students] and now it’s 24, so we’ve had to add extra classes to accommodate change,” Minnette said.
Support staff — learning services, teacher librarians and counsellors — has also increased by approximately five positions, he said. The school district has been able to fill almost every class except for a wood-shop and language position.
The scramble to find teachers in B.C. is being temporarily remedied through letters of permission issued by the provincial government. A permission letter allows ‘a suitable person’ who doesn’t have a teacher’s certificate, but who has the skill or knowledge required to fill a teaching position can do so for up to one year.
“We’ve searched across Canada for teachers and there were challenges to find specialist teachers and that’s why we have letters of permission,” Minnette said.
Four people have been hired in the school district with permission letters. “We’ll continue to look for teachers, so hopefully if we find a shop teacher we’ll bring them in,” he said.
A new website
Change and technology have given a new look to the school district’s website. The superintendent admitted there are little blips they’re still working on, but they’re pleased with the progress.
“It’s being tweaked as we talk. The value is that material can be added and to do updates it doesn’t have to be someone with a lot of tech. Before everything had to go through one person who required expertise. Now each site we can upgrade and update,” Minnette said.
The new curriculum
Another change this year is that schools in Prince Rupert and across B.C. will continue to roll out the new curriculum, and this year Grades 10-12 teachers are starting to adopt the new system.
The last two years, Grades K-9 adopted the new curriculum. There was a transition year in 2015-2016, and last school year the elementary and middle school teachers were required to have the new curriculum fully implemented. Now it’s time for high school.
It’s a transition year for Grades 10-12 teachers who will begin to adopt the new system, and by next year a full adoption will be mandatory for all high school grades.
In terms of graduation requirements, those have slowly changed as well. Provincial exams are being phased out and in its place science and social studies will be assessed in the classroom and students will be required to take two provincial tests, one for numeracy and the other literacy.
This year, Grade 12 students will take the same Language Arts 12 provincial exams, but for math, they will be required to take the new numeracy assessment before graduating. This year’s Grade 11 students will be the first cohort to take only the new provincial tests for numeracy and literacy.
The whole curriculum redesign started in 2011, prompted by complaints from teachers, industry and parents saying that students were not being properly equipped for 21st century challenges.
Now, the curriculum is simplified, with less specific learning outcomes and a greater emphasis on teaching students to think critically, be creative, communicate well, and develop a strong sense of personal identity and social responsibility.