Chilliwack school board fears uncertainties surrounding B.C. Supreme Court ruling

Chilliwack school board speaks for first time on implications B.C. Supreme Court ruling on class size and composition may have.

Chilliwack school board’s concerns regarding the recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling is no different than that of other school districts.

Fears around implementation, costs, student disruption, and space were all expressed in a conference call between various school board members from across the province Wednesday.

One of the biggest issues is the uncertainty, said Chilliwack board of education vice chair Silvia Dyck who sat in on the call.

Last month the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) calling Bill 28 unconstitutional.

Bill 28, which was legislated by the Liberal government in 2002, removed class size and composition from collective bargaining.

In the ruling, the provincial government was ordered to restore class size and pay $2 million in damages to BCTF.

The government is appealing the decision.

“We’re waiting for direction from a variety of fronts, the ministry, the government, BCPSEA,” said Dyck. “We’re getting prepared to deal with whatever we need to … which no one is sure of at this point in time.

“We’re in a holding pattern right now.”

In Chilliwack, the school board has directed staff to analyze the district’s current class size and composition ratios and to determine any implications there may be. The board will review the data in an in-camera meeting on Feb. 18.

Dyck already knows space will be a significant struggle.

“If suddenly we have to increase classes, where will we find the room?” she asked. “For shrinking districts, it’s probably not so bad, but for us, it certainly is a problem – there’s no room.”

Chilliwack continues to be one of the few growing school districts in the province.

“We have concerns around implementation; the world has changed since 2002, and what was good at that point in time may not be in the best interest of students today,” said Dyck.

“Just hoping that wiser heads will prevail and they’ll recognize that the implementation so quickly of this would harm our students’ education. Disrupting classes is not in the best interest of students and that’s where our priorities lie.”