A majority of classes within the Nanaimo school district this school year will have 30 students or less.
According to the school district, all 148.5 intermediate class divisions have 30 students or less and 174.5 primary class divisions also adhere to class size specifications. In terms of secondary schools, 792.5 classes have 30 students or less and 40 classes, for subjects such as band and theatre, have more than 30 students, but those classes are exempt.
The school district said there are 14 students with special needs, such as physical dependencies or deafness and blindness (Level 1), which remains unchanged from last year. The number of students with special needs, such as moderate to profound intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder (Level 2), totalled 411, remaining static with 2013.
The number of students with Level 3 special needs (intensive behaviour interventions or serious mental illness) dropped to 207 from 220 between 2013-14.
Mike Ball, Nanaimo teachers’ union president, said he isn’t satisfied with how students are allocated throughout the district and it is tied to the long-standing dispute with the province over class-size and composition. He said there are many classes with more than three students with special needs. Teachers will find it impossible to meet all their needs, he said.
“If we had funding at the level we had in 2002 now, our district would have in excess of $7 million extra in the budget and that $7 million would’ve been splitting classes … we would not have as many classes with as many students with special needs. The underfunding is putting a lot of pressure on the system and we’re at breaking point,” Ball said.
The start of the school year was delayed due to labour action from teachers and Ball said he didn’t think that had an affect on student allocation because teachers went back to their classrooms to exactly the same issues as before the strike.
He said the new education fund for hiring teachers, that came out of negotiations, only added a minimal amount of money.
“Nothing has changed as far as the composition of classes or the sizes of classes,” said Ball. “There have been some minimal changes and we were able to use that extra money to help with some of the needs but it doesn’t fully meet the needs of every student in our district.”