A parent at Swift Current Academy is worried after receiving news their small school is likely to be getting smaller – though it has nothing to do with a decrease in student enrolment.
Swift Current Academy was informed this month by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) that the school is destined have its existing 2.5 teaching units reduced to 2.0 for September 2019. This includes the principal of the school, not as an extra person.
Nancy Barrington told The Packet this would be detrimental to the small school. While they have just 17 students, spanning several grades, she feels 2.5 is already spreading it extremely thin, and students’ needs haven’t changed.
“We actually have student enrolment for September to increase our numbers and we don’t have any students leaving,” says Barrington.
The only message she received from the NLESD with respect to the reduction, Barrington says, was a “brush off.” She was told there was a formula for how teachers are allotted to each school.
The Packet contacted the NLESD for an explanation of the reasoning for cutting positions despite no decline in student numbers.
In a written response on Monday, May 27, the NLESD stated they make a preliminary determination of teacher allocations to schools based on the anticipated enrolment and grade configurations each spring, in order to be compliant with the May 7 deadline for teacher assignment.
“Year over year, there can be changes in enrolment numbers and/or grade configurations such that allocations also change — either up or down,” reads the statement.
“These numbers are revisited and confirmed in September. There is a process in place for all schools to advise the district of programming challenges. This process is led by the school administrator, and occurs after actual enrolments and needs are confirmed in September.”
They add that they can’t comment specifically on allocations for Swift Current at this time, but will discuss any concerns with school council before commenting publicly.
According to Barrington, one of the 2.5 current positions at the school includes one teacher who provides 25 per cent of her time as an Instructional Resource Teacher (IRT).
There is also a half-time position to teach the oldest students, currently in junior high grades. That’s the position that's proposed to be cut.
“We have student enrolment for junior high next year, and the (half-position) teacher that they’re taking away is the only qualified teacher to teach junior high,” said Barrington.
The IRT time will also be eliminated under a new two-position setup.
With two teachers, next school year there will be one for Kindergarten to Grade 3 and another for Grades 4, 6 and 8.
Barrington is concerned over how students will be affected. She says, without the same IRT service, needs won’t be met in the same way.
“We’re going to have students up at the school who basically are going to be put into a multi-grade classroom, all inclusive, and they’re not going to have support services that they need next year to accommodate their courses.”
She says it’s stressful for everyone.
“It’s going to mean decreased time with students, more stress for the teachers because they’ll have more prep work, more things to do. They’ll have to include everybody in one classroom with multi-grades.
“The students know this and they’re going to feel it as well.”
Swift Current Academy was reviewed for closure in 2017, with an ultimate decision in early 2018 to keep the school open.
Barrington thinks the teaching reduction is related to that.
“They’re spreading us so thin we’re getting to the point where you say, ‘What are you going to do?’” she says.
Barrington has also obtained signatures from other parents in her efforts to combat the changes.
Heritage parents to meet with NLESD
Meanwhile, parents on the student council for Heritage Collegiate, who recently complained about having a teaching position “held back” until September have confirmed a meeting with NLESD.
Parents told The Packet they have been granted a meeting with Bronson Collins and Duane Smith of NLESD by May 28.
While the school meets the population criteria to retain all 13 teaching units, one hire is being held back until September to ensure they actually have enough students for 13 positions.
Heritage’s concerns with the hold-back stem from a variety of factors, even if the 13th teacher is eventually hired. This includes their semesterized curriculum structure, late hires of teachers and high demand to serve students’ learning needs.