Normal start to school year expected

Nanaimo educators are looking forward to a calmer school start-up in September compared with last year.

Richard Francoeur

Richard Francoeur

Nanaimo educators are looking forward to a calmer school start-up in September compared to last year.

Teacher job action lasted for most of last school year, with administrators taking over supervision and other duties from teachers from September until March, a three-day strike and then a withdrawal from extra-curricular activities for the remainder of the school year.

But a deal reached in July between the teachers’ union and the province should mean a return to normal, said Jamie Brennan, school board chairman.

“I’m looking forward to a positive and constructive year,” he said.

The first priority for trustees this fall is finishing the strategic plan, which will guide all future decision-making in the district.

Brennan said the board expects the first draft to be ready by the end of September.

“Getting it done means we’ll be able to put our tiller in the water and know which direction to steer in,” he said.

Brennan said trustees also plan to focus on some immediate needs that aren’t impacted by the strategic plan, such as seismic upgrades at Wellington Secondary School.

Another new development this fall is the new learning services department, which includes the introduction of school-based, inter-disciplinary teams that will move from class to class and school to school to help teachers deal with challenging learning environments.

Brennan said it is important to ensure the teams are making a real difference in classrooms and making teachers feel supported.

“It can be a lonely job in the classroom,” he said. “We want teachers to feel they’re fully covered by staff.”

Justin Green, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers Association, said teachers are looking forward to more certainty this fall – last fall they returned to work with no contract and unsure of what they should and shouldn’t be doing during job action.

“Without a strike and without anything out of the ordinary, it should be an ordinary startup,” he said. “Everything should be as usual.”

Green said the union will be busy this fall ensuring the new learning services department is deploying resources where they are most needed and participating in discussions about the strategic plan.

“We’re very interested in seeing what that vision is,” he said. “We haven’t been a huge participant up to this point because of the strike.”

Teachers return to the bargaining table in the spring, but Green isn’t sure if the next round will be as disruptive as the last.

Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said the district predicts 13,095 students will return to elementary and secondary schools in September – down 46 students from last year.

Final numbers will not be known until the end of September, as enrolment fluctuates in the first weeks of school – parents let schools know they have moved away and new students register.

Schools opened for new registrations Aug. 27 and parents should phone ahead to see if they need to make an appointment to register their child or children.

Today (Sept. 4) is the first day of school, but for most schools, students only attend for about an hour.

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