The Prince Rupert School District (SD52) is having difficulty finding certified teachers to lead classes

The Prince Rupert School District (SD52) is having difficulty finding certified teachers to lead classes

School district forced to juggle due to teacher shortage

The Prince Rupert School District is having trouble finding certified teachers, with the teacher shortage issue only getting worse.

The Prince Rupert School District (SD52) is having difficulty finding certified teachers to lead classes, with the teacher shortage issue only getting worse.

Money has been made available by the ministry to hire more full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers to end the school year, and more funding will be available next year to help school districts fill any teaching gaps to restore class size and composition previously lost in the last decade.

But as SD52 and school districts around the region are finding out, there simply aren’t enough qualified teachers to fill the positions.

“We’ve just hired our first retired teacher back, so that’s where we’re poaching from now,” said SD52 superintendent Sandy Jones at the Feb. 14. school board meeting.

“We’ve hired five FTEs and we’ve had some people who have had illnesses, so that’s when we recruit from our TTOC (Teachers Teaching on Call) list,” Jones said.

SD52 received $242,831 in January after the Supreme Court of Canada made its ruling to add more teachers to classrooms across the province – the equivalent of approximately five FTE teachers for the remainder of the school year.

Up to 1,100 teachers have been hired at breakneck speeds since the ruling, and SD52 will likely need to look beyond B.C.’s borders in the coming year.

“We may be looking at recruiting from farther afield. That’s a whole provincial landscape that’s going to change I think, and we are experiencing some challenge around those specialty positions already,” Jones said.

The school district had previously agreed with the unions to only hire certified teachers, but in a climate where they’re all being snapped up by competing districts, non-certified teachers are taking their place. But it’s not anything new for SD52, which had non-certified teachers teaching in many replacement teacher positions in the early 1990s.

This year, uncertified teachers have been filling in when the regular teachers are away sick for a day or two.

“Full-time teaching positions are held by qualified and certified teachers,” said Raegan Sawka, president of Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union, Local 52.

“We’ve done some training with non-certified [teachers]. They have to have a university education and a degree, that’s sort of our bottom line right now,” said Jones.

“We have certainly employed people from out-of-province before. We’d like to get locally where we can.”

The province is expected to have to pay close to $300 million more starting in 2017-18 to fund more positions. $50 million was made available for school districts to end 2016-17.