Nanaimo school officials are working to keep all classes in the district within the legislated limit of 30 students or less.
Bill 22, provincial legislation passed last spring, stipulates that extra compensation must be provided to teachers with oversized classes.
That compensation can come in the form of increased pay, additional preparation time, professional development funding or a combination of all three.
But the district hopes compensation won’t be necessary.
Trustees have asked staff to try to keep all classes within the limit, said Jamie Brennan, school board chairman.
The board must know by Sept. 30 if the district has been able to accomplish this, as this is the cutoff date for sending finalized class numbers to the Education Ministry.
In recent years, the district has run oversized classes at the secondary level in the interests of offering students as much program choice as possible. For example, if only 20 students at a secondary school want to take Calculus 12, a principal could make up for the low enrolment by scheduling a few Math 10 classes with 31 or 32 students.
“You can’t keep adding classes to the timetable because that means hiring extra teachers and we can’t do that because we don’t have the money,” said Brennan.
He said this year’s mandate, if feasible, will probably mean some courses won’t be available except through distance learning, especially at the smaller secondary schools including Cedar, John Barsby and Woodlands.
The decision to try to work within the limits was made for several reasons.
Brennan said the district is in a better financial position this year than in recent years due to a surplus and the learning improvement fund, a special grant from the province to help deal with complex classroom situations.
Trustees expect a push from teachers during the collective bargaining process next spring for firm class size limits that cannot be breached, even for compensation, and packing classrooms with extra students this fall would create conflict between the union and the district, he said.
“And it’s just sound educational policy,” said Brennan. “It does make sense to have ceilings. Thirty is a good number.”
Justin Green, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said keeping classes at 30 or less is good, but he’s worried that the distance learning program will become a “dumping ground” for students above that limit.
“I don’t know where there’s any evidence that would support that that’s the optimal learning environment,” he said.
If the district is unable to succeed with its all-classes-under-30 goal, teachers will not accept monetary compensation for oversized classes, Green added.
“It does nothing for the student, it’s just money in the pocket,” he said. “We believe the resolution to any class over 30 is more preparation time or more teachers.”