Learning environment concern to Nanaimo teachers, despite 30-student class limit

NANAIMO – Teachers' union is concerned about class composition even though Nanaimo school district has kept classes to 30 students.

The Nanaimo teachers’ union is concerned about learning environment even though Nanaimo school district has kept classes to 30 students and under for the second straight year.

The Ministry of Education mandates that districts must compensate teachers with (Grade 4 to 12) classes with more than 30 students. While the school district said there were no situations like that – save for excluded classes such as drama and band – in 2013-14, Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association president Mike Ball said the makeup of classes isn’t ideal either.

Without rules on class composition, there are classes that are not an appropriate learning environment for students, he said.

“We appreciate the district sticking to the ‘no more than 30’ rule but that just becomes a target, when you have a hard cap like that with no district averages … there are many classes with six, seven and eight students with special needs, which makes it very difficult for the teachers to be able to meet the needs of every single student in their class,” he said.

Ball said with “chronic underfunding,” too often classes are up to 30 students when they should be considerably less in order for students to have an opportunity to learn effectively. The teachers’ association is against paying teachers for taking extra students.

School district board chairman Jamie Brennan said it was likely that there were high numbers of special needs students in classes and the number of special needs students varies from class to class.

“It’s part of the school organization that the … principal and vice-principal oversee before the start of school,” Brennan said. “I guess if there [are] new students coming into the school, we might not know who they are or what kind of issues they are presenting.”

He said staff try to limit the numbers of special needs students in classes.

With the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and its Nanaimo district local currently in legal proceedings against the provincial government related to 2002 legislation that took away teachers’ rights to bargain class size and composition, Ball hopes that class composition issues will be dealt with when the case wraps up.

“Really, the only way to address it is to have more funding and have more classes,” Ball said.