Langley public schools grapple with court decision implications

The Langley School District readies for the return to class.

Langley public schools are in for a tighter squeeze when classes resume after the Labour Day long weekend.

Lots of new staff was hired to meet class size and composition requirements that came back into effect after a Supreme Court decision against the former B.C. Liberal government.

All 60 B.C. public school districts have been on a hiring spree and there’s more positions still to fill.

“We fully expect that all of the required in-class teachers will be hired and present,” Langley School Board chair Rob McFarlane said about the start of school.

Specialty teacher jobs are going to take longer to fill, he explained.

“For us the priority is making sure all the teachers in front of classrooms are in place,” he said.

The district is now concentrating on filling the jobs other than classroom teachers.

“Positions that are still being filled include non-enrolling positions, which would include teacher-librarians, resource teachers, counsellors, etc.,” said district communications manager Ken Hoff.

After the court decision, the provincial government gave districts extra funds to cover the additional staffing, for this school year and next.

“We’ve been assured that the funding that has been provided is on an ongoing basis presumably through the term of the current contract,” McFarlane said.

The new NDP/Green coalition government has only been in place since this summer.

“They’ve had limited time to establish their positions and make their commitments,” he added.

The district doesn’t have figures on how many students will be showing up at the door but Hoff said the schools are ready to welcome students back.

“We don’t have preliminary numbers for elementary until sometime next week, and it will be the week following for secondary,” Hoff explained.

Once student numbers are known, the district can finalize hiring.

“There are no deadlines for the hiring of teachers but the district continues to hire for the necessary roles as quickly as the availability of qualified teachers allows,” he said.

The next question for the district is where to put all those people.

“One of our challenges beyond hiring enough teachers is getting enough space,” McFarlane noted.

While the district has added portables, expanded some schools, and is working on building a new high school, it still needs more space to meet class size and composition requirements and to handle the growing enrolment in the Willoughby area.

“The reality is we will not have enough space this September,” he added.

In the 1950s, the district has to send Langley High School students to school in shifts, but McFarlane said that’s not been discussed as a modern way to alleviate overcrowding.