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No teacher shortage expected in Houston

“We’ve been lucky here,” says School District 54 superintendent
School District 54 plans to conduct its annual facility review in the fall. That’s when discussions of the Houston facilities and any possible reconfiguration or closures will be addressed. (Houston Today file photo)

Although the B.C. Teachers’ Federation says the province’s teacher shortage is creating problems in many parts of B.C., it has not been an issue for School District No. 54 (Bulkley Valley).

READ MORE: Teachers’ union files grievance over public school educator shortage in B.C.

According to School District 54 superintendent Chris van der Mark, no teacher shortages are expected in the Bulkley Valley for the upcoming school year.

“Currently we have filled everything that’s been posted in Houston,” he said. “We’ve been lucky here; we haven’t been hit like other districts have.”

As part of a Supreme Court of Canada decision, in 2017 the B.C. government hired 3500 teachers, which put a further strain on attracting teachers to rural areas.

“One of the challenges we’ve had, and I think many northern districts had, is that the bulk of those 3500 positions were in the Lower Mainland,” explained van der Mark. “This created a lot of mobility where people that had been working in more rural areas said, ‘I’m heading south.’”

“I think that has created a challenge for districts north of Prince George,” he continued. “A lot of jobs became available that previously weren’t, and so people have taken advantage of that mobility and that’s been a challenge.”

“We [School District 54] lost a handful [of teachers] that took opportunities to go down south, but I think we’re pretty fortunate,” he added.

van der Mark believes the region’s beauty and lifestyle are helping retain teachers.

“The Bulkley Valley is a beautiful area to live; it certainly got lots to offer in terms of lifestyle, and I don’t think the ski hill hurts.”

“It’s also the proximity to the airport, and I don’t think it hurts that we got a really good [school] board,” he continued. “This is a good place to work, live and raise a family.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has recently filed a grievance due to the province’s ongoing shortage of educators in schools across the province.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman said in a news release earlier this month that ongoing teacher shortages remain a significant problem for many schools and threatens to cause disruption in the next school year.

“It’s now June 1 and there are still reports of non-certified teachers working in classrooms, students with special needs losing out on their programs or being sent home, and hundreds of classes with class compositions that don’t meet the learning needs of students,” he said.

Classrooms impacted are in all corners of the province including Vancouver, Quesnel and Prince Rupert, Hansman said.

Silverthorne Elementary’s future uncertain

When it comes to the future of Silverthorne Elementary, School District 54 superintendent Chris van der Mark says that although the school’s closure is still a possibility, the school board has not initiated a process of closure to this point.

READ MORE: No set timeline for decision on Houston school closure

“It’s hard to speak to what will or may [happen],” he told Houston Today. “It certainly is challenging having three buildings and 560 kids, but currently it’s working and it’s being sustained.”

The school district plans to conduct its annual facility review in the fall. That’s when discussions of the Houston facilities and any possible reconfiguration or closures will be addressed, said van der Mark.

The closure of Silverthorne Elementary would leave Houston with only one elementary school.

- With files from Ashley Wadhwani