SCHOOL sports teams will hit the ground running again this month as students and teachers return to the classroom looking forward to a school year free of the labour strife that dominated the previous year.
"They're excited about just being back teaching," said Rob Millard, president of the West Vancouver Teachers Association.
Millard described last year as teachers' "annus horribilis."
"It was an ongoing stressful year," he said. "There was a collective sigh of relief in June."
June was when the B.C. Teachers Federation settled a contract with their school employers that lasts until June 2013.
John Lewis, superintendent of the North Vancouver School District, said that's contributed to more of a "buoyant, positive outlook" among school staff
this September. "We really want to return to the work we feel passionate about," he said.
In North Vancouver, the largest school district on the North Shore, enrolment figures for this year are so far holding steady at about 15,200 students. That's good news for the school district, which in past years has seen enrolment decline as much as 300 students annually.
While there are still about 300 fewer students entering kindergarten than are graduating in Grade 12, the school district has seen more than 250 new students register over the summer, said Lewis. Some of those students have moved to North Vancouver, some have returned to public school from the private system and some are coming from outside of the district. Lewis said the district is expecting to see enrolment stabilize over the next five years.
Lewis said the school district is also expecting to cut the number of classes that have more than 30 students by about half this year.
Last year, about 300 of the district's 2,500 classes had more than 30 students. Lewis said the district has managed to bring those numbers down by putting $1 million saved through school closures, consolidations and other cuts back into the classrooms.
Under the new teachers' contract, teachers whose class sizes exceed 30 can now request extra pay, although there are some exceptions.
Millard said in West Vancouver, teachers have a commitment from their superintendent to keep class sizes within those limits at the elementary school level. But he said teachers in more cash-strapped school districts won't be so lucky.
The teachers' federation has come out against the new class size provisions. "If you give people money, it doesn't make it better," said Millard. "It's still an overcrowded classroom."
Daniel Storms, president of the North Vancouver Teachers Association, said class composition is also still a concern for teachers, who face increasing numbers of students with special needs without additional support. "That has always been a concern of teachers," he said. "That has not gone away."