THE President of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association, Joanne Sutherland, is calling on the Vancouver School Board to address the critical shortage of teachers in the district.
She noted that while the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, it has been an ongoing issue that has not been effectively addressed. Every day there are numerous absences that are not filled due to a shortage of teaching staff. The Vancouver School Board has not been able to maintain a sufficient number of on-call teachers. Schools are forced to shuffle their schedules daily and pull teachers from their assignments to cover absences. This directly affects services to students as Resource Teachers, ELL Teachers, Reading Recovery Teachers, Teacher Librarians, Counsellors, and other specialist teachers are consistently being redirected to cover classrooms. Those one-on-one and small group supports, that are essential for students, are being lost.
“Since October 2020, our members have been collecting data, and so far, we have calculated over 900 days where the Board has failed to fill an absence. This number is alarming and suggests that the problem is at a critical point,” said Sutherland. “Teachers are under immense pressure to fill the gaps and this situation is untenable.”
She pointed out that school districts were mandated to hire more teachers after the BCTF won back class size and composition protections at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. The issue of staffing shortages has become an increasing concern since that time. Increased absences due to the Provincial Health Office orders means that we are seeing a greater increase in the need for additional teachers.
Sutherland said: “Our teachers are working hard to make school a stable environment for their students during this pandemic. Their ability to do so is challenged when their schedules change daily, when their preparation time is cancelled, and when they can’t rely on the supports needed for their students. COVID-19 has meant that our students need more daily support, not less.”