School District 69 (Qualicum)’s French Immersion program may have a full compliment of francophone teachers, but the rest of the province is struggling to find them. — Courtesy SD69

Francophone union dismayed at B.C. francophone teacher shortage

SD69 Qualicum’s French Immersion program fully staffed: superintendant

While the Francophone schools council (CSF) is calling for action on a francophone teacher shortage in 32 schools across B.C., School District 69 (Qualicum) has managed to secure “a full compliment of immersion teachers this year.”

That’s according to SD69 superintendent Rollie Koop, who said the district has been able to fill needed French instruction positions in spite of restored union contract language that, in many cases, required school districts to hire more teachers.

That’s not to say that SD69 is untouched by the provincewide problem.

“Getting qualified, experienced, high-end immersion teachers who are native French speakers is always a challenge,” said Koop. “It’s a challenge everywhere in the province.”

“We are struggling a bit in terms of finding immersion teachers who are willing to be on the TTOC (teachers teaching on call) list because they can get employment in other districts. So we continue to work through that,” he said.

However, with 322 French immersion students at Oceanside Elementary, and 100 at Ballenas Secondary School, Koop said, “There is no holding back of programs because we can’t find teachers to teach the classes.

“We are certainly not at a crisis stage in our community.”

Elsewhere, the 32 member schools of the CSF are short about 50 French Immersion teachers, said Linda Thériault, president of the B.C. union of Francophone teachers (SEPF), in a B.C. Teachers’ Federation news release.

“We are already two full months into the school year and classes across the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (CSF) school district are still being reorganized,” said Thériault. “The ongoing organizational problems in CSF schools are a result of insufficient action by the districts to recruit and retain francophone teachers.

“Other school districts, during the spring and summer, got out early and recruited French-speaking teachers into immersion programs. As a result of the inaction, our francophone schools are short about 50 teachers. This is causing ongoing disruptions for teachers and students.”

The CSF includes Port Alberni’s Des Grands-Cedres school, Nanaimo’s Oceane/Nanaimo Secondary and Campbell River’s Mer-Et-Montagne/Carihi Secondary.

French Immersion programs are just some of the hardest-hit in a general teacher shortage provincewide, according to the news release.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman said a recently announced Ministry of Education task force to deal with an overall teacher shortage across the province is too little, too late.

“We can’t wait for that group to finish its work before concrete actions are taken,” Hansman said in the news release. “The fact that schools are still being reorganized this late in the year is unacceptable. School districts should have done more, sooner, to ensure they had the appropriate number of staff to meet the requirements of the BCTF’s restored contract language on class size and composition.”

Hansman said possible solutions include incentives such as student loan forgiveness, professional supports, meaningful assistance with housing and moving expenses, and adjustments to teachers’ starting salaries that he said are the second lowest in Canada, with Quebec being the lowest.

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