As the new academic year starts in just a few weeks, schools in Burns Lake are ready for the students and have filled all of their teacher positions.
“We have hired about 15 full time teachers to School District 91 since late May and will have all classroom positions filled by the start of school in the Burns Lake area,” as Mike Skinner, Assistant Superintendent of SD91 told Lakes District News.
“We have one science position just posted at Lakes District Secondary School because of a teacher leave request last week. We believe we will have a teacher for this job come September,” he added.
The staffing situation marks an improvement from one year ago, when SD91 had 10 vacant teaching positions, five of them in Burns Lake.
The recruitment problems were rooted in a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision that created a large number of teaching positions across British Columbia, Skinner said last year.
The staffing situation in other parts of SD91 still has problems.
The highest need is in Fraser Lake, where the district is trying to fill three to four full-time district teachers on call and a science specialist, Skinner said.
There are also vacancies for French immersion teachers in Vanderhoof and two district counselling positions.
“As with other districts, specialty positions such as math/science, counselling, tech ed (wood, metal, auto) and French language are very difficult to fill in B.C,” added the assistant superintendent.
Attracting and keeping teachers in northern B.C. is tough and SD91 has been making several efforts to turn things around.
“Our staff have attended many hiring fairs in B.C. and across Canada and we advertise on the Make a Future website,” Skinner said. “We have several partnerships with universities to host practicum students and the UBC Rural initiative each spring. We also emphasize our low cost of living and home ownership. We do offer moving allowances to new teachers, but cannot add extra incentives such as pay/benefits due to our collective agreement. Our starting salaries are already in the top two or three in BC and most positions are full time and continuing.”
Teacher staffing remains a problem across the province as well.
“There continue to be general shortages for sure,” said Rich Overgaard, spokesperson for the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF).
“We have lots of people in the Interior teaching on ‘letters of permission.’ Those are people who don’t have a teaching certificate. That’s a problem in lots of districts.”
This year the province needs 1,500 new teachers, with more needed each year and almost 1,900 will be needed in 2028, the BCTF estimated in a March 2019 factsheet, citing government and education data.
Teacher shortages are made worse, the federation says, because salaries for new teachers in B.C. are the second-lowest in the country, after Quebec.