KTTA launches campaign to outline class size, composition violations

By Chad Klassen
January 12, 2018 - 3:39pm Updated: January 12, 2018 - 5:31pm

KAMLOOPS — When the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of B.C. teachers in November 2016, there was hope the more than decade-long battle over class size and composition was over. 

But if you ask the Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association, the fight is still on. 

"The composition of students is a little bit better. It's not significantly better," said Laurel MacPherson, the vice-president of the Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association. "I don't know if we have seen much of a change at all. It doesn't look any different than it did before."

"Teachers are asking 'what was the point in going through all of this? We don't see a lot of change."

Friday marked the beginning of a 52-day public awareness campaign by the KTTA to bring to light some of the violations happening around School District 73 in relation to class size and composition. 

Each day, the association will highlight a school around the district. The first school in focus is Sahali Secondary School. 

"It has 342 violations, according to the way we interpret the language," said MacPherson. "So that means in a class where there should be three Ministry-designated students, there could be as many as eight. We see that as five violations."

The district's Assistant Superintendant of Human Resources Shayne Olsen replied, "We're a little perplexed about the number that they're using. They have not sent us a calculation to tell us exactly how they calculated that number that's on their website."

In the case of Sahali, Olsen noted with 160 classes at the school, there are two violations for every classroom, which he said is not true. 

"That would mean every class is in violation of the collective agreement," he said. "As we've applied the collective agreement, in a way we feel is accurate, there are classes at some of the schools, including Sahali Secondary, that wouldn't be in compliance."

MacPherson said there is not enough space and teachers to fulfill the promise made in the Supreme Court ruling.

But Olsen noted the district, which has added 112 teachers since the November 2016 ruling, is sufficiently funding classrooms based on its interpretation of the collective agreement. The district, olsen says, can't arbitrarily add more teachers and spaces, unless it's in line with the agreement. 

One of the biggest points of contention is the number of special needs students within the district.

"Where the discrepancies lie is how many Ministry-category kids can be put into a classroom," she noted. "The district is saying three low-incident category kids, but as many high-incident kids as they need to. So in some cases you have three low-incident category kids, but you also have seven high-incident kids."

KTTA believes it should be capped at three per classroom, as does the district. But the definition of what is 'special needs' varies.

"That's really what it comes to is, what does special needs mean," said Olsen. "In our definition of special needs, no you can only have three of them. In their definition of special needs, which is a wider definition, then they also agree there's three. But they're saying these other people you're not treating as special needs, they should count. We're saying 'no, they don't count.'"

The discrepancies, which also includes class size and composition around online learning, could mean an abitration for the two sides in the next couple months.

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