Cowichan Valley school district hiring teachers as pupil tally climbs

The Cowichan Valley school district, for the first time in years, is hiring staff to deal with an overflow of students.

The Cowichan Valley school district, for the first time in years, is hiring staff to deal with an overflow of students.

Enrolment has jumped to 7,600 students this year from 7,400 last year, schools superintendent Rod Allen told the board of education Oct. 4.

What’s heartening, he said, is that most of the growth is among the youngest kids.

“We’ve added eight full-time classroom teachers at elementary level, that’s eight divisions. At secondary, we’ve added two 14-blocks — two full time equivalents — at Cowichan Secondary as well as some additional time to our student support services and some time to a career coordinator position to maintain momentum in that area,” he said.

But, that’s not all. Many new students need support.

“It’s also meant that we are looking at adding 28 education assistant (EA) positions. Some of those have already been added and some of those we are in the process of adding.”

The district has “really emptied our recall list of teachers who are available for full time work,” Allen said.

“We’ve had to hire outside and it’s the same thing with EAs. We are struggling to keep up with hiring enough certified, qualified EAs for our students. But still that’s a good place to be in regarding our growth and how we manage the district.”

Sept. 30 is “data capture day” for the ministry of education and school districts. Enrolment on that date sets funding for the year.

“However we have until Oct. 7 to clean up that data and make sure we don’t have duplications. We’re madly fine tuning what’s going on in secondary schools,” Allen said.

“However our projections from September are about right. That means we have over 7,600 students in our district this year. That’s not so bad,” he said smiling as he explained about the majority of new students coming at primary level.

“That’s helpful for long-term growth. We can see young families moving into the Valley. That’s growth we can count on and predict, which is great. I think that’s standing us in good stead,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, board vice chair Barb De Groot explained that the excitement at finally being able to hire comes primarily because now the school district has moved out from under the “funding protection” umbrella.

That means the district can adapt and hire, based on what is actually happening to student numbers in schools rather than being forced to fit into a pre-determined number of staff.

“That’s the reason we’ve been waiting to get out of it,” De Groot said.