Enrolment numbers in the Sooke School District are higher than anticipated but the exact figures will have to be determined later in the fall.
“Right now it’s very tight, particularly at the high schools … It’s higher than we projected,” said SD62 superintendent Jim Cambridge. “But we’re not sure what that will look like … We never really know.”
With new enrolments during the summer and other students moving or changing schools, Cambridge noted the District will not be able to determine the exact number of students until after classes have begun.
SD62 has also had to accommodate the addition of roughly 30 classrooms for the new school year because of changes to class size regulations paired with the expected growth on the West Shore.
“It was like building two new elementary schools over the summer but spreading it out over 15 sites,” Cambridge said, adding staff have worked incredibly hard during the summer break to make sure these new classrooms will be ready for the first day of school.
The last of 19 portables were installed this week. In addition to those structures, the district also converted 10 computer labs and three other rooms into classrooms to accommodate the need. Now, staff are just finalizing the needed permits and adding furniture and teacher supplies to the spaces.
“It’s actually worked out well,” Cambridge said. “Overall, I’d say it was a success.”
The computer labs that were repurposed came out of elementary schools, where Cambridge noted they were not needed. Instead of following an old model where computer labs were approached in a similar fashion as going to the library or the gymnasium, he said they’ve shifted their approach to mobile labs, where technology is available in the classroom.
“Kids have access to technology at home, they should have it there in the classroom when they need it,” he said.
Instead of out-dated desktop computers, students will now have portable devices. “It’s the access to information that’s important,” Cambridge added.
SD62, along with other districts across the province, are working to implement new staff levels determined by an agreement reached with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation before the May election.
The B.C. Liberal government signed a deal in March providing $330 million to fund 2,600 new teacher positions, to comply with a November 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that ended a 15-year court battle over contract language governing class size and special needs support ratios.
Cambridge noted the Sooke School District filled most of its teaching positions back in the spring, before the funding had even come through. He added one of the reasons they were so successful in hiring is because the region and the Island are such desirable places to live.
With files from Tom Fletcher