Langley teachers hopeful after court ruling

Class sizes may change soon in Langley and around B.C.

With major changes on the horizon for schools following a Supreme Court decision, local teachers are hoping to spend more time with individual kids.

Nicole Salmon is a resource teacher at Langley Secondary, and remembers the environment before unilateral contract changes in 2002. Under the contract then, resource teachers dealt with up to 15 students.

That’s a far cry from her caseload this year.

“It was going to be over 50 [students] each,” she said.

Resource teachers give extra assistance to students with everything from learning disabilities to physical disabilities, to those who are simply behind and need extra help in catching up or keeping organized.

Large caseloads of students prevent the resource teachers from giving too much time to any one student.

“It’s crisis management, and that’s not the mot effective way to deal with our kids,” she said.

Salmon and others in the Langley School District are waiting to see what happens following last week’s sudden Supreme Court of Canada decision in favour of the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF).

The court ruled that the provincial government should not have stripped out class composition and size provisions from the teachers’ contract.

“There are still tons more unknowns than knowns,” said Rob McFarlane, chair of the Langley Board of Education.

It was thrilling for local teachers, as Langley Teachers Association (LTA) president Wendy Cook anticipates the return of resource teachers, teacher librarians, and lower class sizes from 2002.

“It’ll be a process, everything won’t be put in place overnight,” Cook said.

The BCTF is still studying the court ruling, Cook said.

Before 2002, there were hard limits on the number of students with special needs or individual education plans

Since then, the B.C. Teachers Association says 1,700 specialist teachers have been lost across the province, including teacher-librarians, counsellors, special education teachers, English language specialists, and aboriginal educators.

On a practical level, the BCTF and the province will have to hammer out a new agreement on those issues.

“At this point in time, nobody knows where those negotiations will go,” said McFarlane.

He said sooner would be better in terms of a final agreement.

Salmon is optimistic going forward.

“Who’s to say how it’s all going to be implemented,” she said. “I know that it will be an improvement, and our kids will benefit from it.”

 

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