School District 69 (Qualicum) is being hit by a teacher-on-call shortage, as restored union language across the province has more teachers being hired for full-time work. — File Photo

School District 69 (Qualicum) is being hit by a teacher-on-call shortage, as restored union language across the province has more teachers being hired for full-time work. — File Photo

On-call teacher shortage has school districts scrambling

Many getting full-time work after re-instatement of class size rules

The good news is more teachers are getting hired for full time work in B.C.

The bad news is that’s leading to a lack of Teachers Teaching On Call (TTOCs) across the province and the Island.

The shortage is a result of the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that restored union language around limiting class sizes, confirmed Qualicum School District assistant superintendent Gillian Wilson.

This has led to a need for more full-time teachers, meaning those who might previously have been hired on as on-call teachers, and worked only when other teachers are away or sick, are now getting full-time work. That’s leaving TTOC lists in SD69 and across much of the province short.

Though Wilson said she couldn’t put a number on exactly how many TTOC positions the district is looking to fill, she confirmed its TTOC list is shorter than in previous years, and that the district’s other educators are having to be careful with their schedules to make sure work is getting covered.

“I’m really thankful that we’ve not had to cancel professional development during the days (for teachers),” she said. “Other districts have had to do that out of necessity. We’ve not done that,” she said, but added that teachers have had to be asked to defer their professional development plans.

Wilson noted that securing TTOCs for certain courses, like senior math, shop classes, science and other courses has been a struggle, and that the flu season has added to the difficulties. Superintendent Rollie Koop has previously noted that securing French immersion teachers for the TTOC list has also been a struggle.

During the school board’s Nov. 28 meeting, Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association president Debbie Comer expressed her concern for the situation.

She said this kind of shortage tends to affect the most vulnerable students, with educators giving less one-on-one time, having to help out in other classes, losing prep time and sometimes losing out on professional development opportunities.

“While I’m very hopeful… at the moment it can be very stressful for teachers in our district,” Comer said.

Wilson said the district is doing its best to keep the TTOC shortage from affecting teachers and students, and that the district is seeking various solutions to hiring more TTOCs.

This includes speaking with student teachers, who are about to graduate, about the benefits of working at SD69; speaking with retired teachers to find out if they’d be interested in working again; and doing lots of interviews.

“I was interviewing all day on the Wednesday (the day after the board meeting),” said Wilson.

“That was from teachers that are student teachers as well as other teachers that applied to our website.”

Before the Nov. 28 meeting, the district had also hosted an orientation for student teachers who are about to graduate, and the district will also be at a Vancouver Island University career fair taking place Dec. 18.

“So we’re doing lots of things to recruit great teachers to our community,” said Wilson.

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