Mt. Slesse middle school teacher Eric Munshaw wants the Chilliwack school district to revisit concerns about class sizes in industrial arts classes.

Chilliwack school district urged to act on safety concerns

A Chilliwack shop teacher is concerned his school district is not moving fast enough to improve safety in industrial education classes.

A Chilliwack shop teacher is concerned his school district is failing to move fast enough  to improve the safety in industrial education classes.

Eric Munshaw, industrial education teacher at Mt. Slesse middle school, requested a time slot at an upcoming school board meeting to revisit the idea of smaller class sizes, but was denied.

Munshaw, speaking on behalf of Chilliwack shop teachers, had hoped the district would take the concerns of his colleagues seriously and design classes for next year based on those concerns.

“My intent was to revisit the issue with trustees because principals were already building timetables for next year and if trustees were going to make a move and recommend we limit numbers, it had to be soon,” he said.

Munshaw previously presented last October, where he detailed information provided in the BC Technology Education Association’s (BCTEA) Best Practices Guide, and warned trustees they could be held liable if an accident were to occur.

When his request was denied by the superintendent, Munshaw emailed his presentation to individual trustees in hopes of getting a discussion started. Two trustees (who he did not name) chastised him for inappropriate behaviour stating that it was a collective bargaining issue.

“I wasn’t suggesting anyone do any collective bargaining, I was simply asking trustees to take the first step forward and recommend to administrators they put a limit on class size and see what happens,” said Munshaw.

“What irked me was they wouldn’t even allow the conversation to happen.”

Shop classes in B.C. currently range anywhere from 25 to 35 students. The BC Technology Education Association (BCTEA) is recommending school districts adopt a class size of no more than 24.

Munshaw said more than 400 students at Mt. Slesse take advantage of the industrial education programs. With five middle schools and three high schools offering trades courses, he fears the safety of Chilliwack students are at risk without smaller class size limits in place.

“Our linchpin has always been and continues to be the safety and quality of education,” said Munshaw.

In an email to The Progress, superintendent Michael Audet said the district’s hands were tied.

“We have been advised by provincial authorities that the class size implications of this document [BCTEA’s Best Practices Guide] may conflict with legislation and with negotiations at the provincial level,” said Audet. “For those reasons, the board of education is not able to address Mr. Munshaw’s request to present at this time.”

However, Munshaw is beginning to believe shop teachers are getting the runaround.

“We’ve raised the point time and time again, and their answer has generally been we’ll take it under advisement and get back to you about it, but I’m concerned no one has actually sat down rationally and talked about it as a collective group,” said Munshaw.

“To me, it’s just stone walling and let’s push it off until it’s too late to make a decision for the next school year.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

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