School District 69’s (Qualicum) official count of classes with more than three students with individual education plans (IEPs) is much less than the union’s count, but Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association president Debbie Morran is happy they’re talking about it.
“This is the first time there’s ever been a response, which is encouraging,” Morran said. “To have it discussed at a public meeting is a positive step.”
Morran presented the board with MATA’s report on class size and composition at the October board meeting, stating there are 17 classes in the district with more than 30 students, 159 classes with three or more students with IEPs and nine classes with more than 30 students and more than three IEPs.
IEPs are Ministry of Education designations for physical or intellectual special needs.
Morran said their teacher consultation process found almost three quarters (116) of the oversize classes are in the district’s three middle schools.
According to the district’s official numbers, based on divisions, there are 73 with three or more students with IEPs.
The district is required by the provincial School Act to report oversize classes and the rationale for each. In an update to the board on Tues., Nov. 22 for example, a physical education course at Ballenas Secondary got another student, pushing it to 31, which the superintendent and principal okayed as a class conducive to larger numbers.
Assistant superintendent Rollie Koop responded to the MATA report, explaining the district doesn’t count individual classes in the middle schools, but goes by divisions, or a certain group of students based in the same homeroom that may have different teachers for different subjects.
He said the MATA report “represented an inaccurate number of middle schools classes,” which he said “obscures the middle school situation,” and is a “significant mischaracterization of the unique challenges.”
He said it was a political move in light of ongoing negotiations and job action and that you can’t judge whether 73 classes is a lot based on the number since each class and student is different.
He said some students with special physical needs may not be a disruption in any way, while another with behavioral problems could have a huge impact.
Outgoing trustee Bill Preston asked for conversations between staff, the superintendent and MATA about the class size reports.
Morran later said she appreciated Preston’s comment and that they used to do that but haven’t in the past couple years.
Koop told The News, “we’re always open to conversation,” but added class size and composition has become very controversial and political.