Districts across B.C. are working to shuffle classes in order to meet new requirements following November’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling to restore class size and composition to 2002 levels.
Fewer students in classrooms also means some districts will have to fill the gap using portables.
But who’s on the hook to pay for them?
Surrey Teachers Association President Gioia Breda says it’s the government’s responsibility to fund extra portables needed to restore class sizes.
But Breda adds Education Ministry has put up hurdles calling for applications, one of them being school districts need to prove those portables would be in use for the next five years.
“School districts have to be able to show the ministry that they will be able to have those portables up and running by September. But if the ministry isn’t going to get back to districts by June, and it takes several months for the process of portables to be acquired, it’s actually impossible for school districts to show they can have those portables in place by September.”
She says to her understanding, the requirement to fund portables was not part of the agreement between the government and teachers.
Breda says the money should come from a capital budget from the Education Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Surrey School District says it put in an application for 30 portables.
Spokesperson Doug Strachan says the district isn’t planning to put up money until it hears back from the ministry.
The New Westminster School District is taking a different approach.
Chair Kelly Slade-Kerr says New West needs seven portables.
“Our district has decided to go ahead and incur the cost because we don’t want children to be without a classroom come September first.”
Slade-Kerr says the total cost for seven portables comes to just under $200,000.
She adds the district has put in an application to the ministry to cover the costs, hoping to get reimbursed.
“And if the government decides that they won’t cover those costs, then we will take those out of operational funds. But of course, any money that we spend on housing students in portables comes from budgets for supplies and additional teaching staff.”
The Ministry of Education says it can’t comment during the provincial election.