Prince George District Teachers’ Association concerned about teacher shortage

School District 57 sees an average of 130 absentee teachers each day, local teachers’ union says

A teacher shortage is causing disruption for students in the classroom, according to the Prince George District Teachers Association.

In a presentation to the School District 57 Board of Trustees on Tuesday, PGDTA First Vice President Daryl Beauregard said the district currently sees an average of 130 absentee teachers each day.

“It leaves a big hole every day,” he said.

Many of those absences are filled by support teachers — music teachers, library teachers and other non-classroom teachers, he said. The PGDTA estimates that district support teachers have spent 3,227 hours classifying classroom teachers so far this school year, distracting them from their designated roles.

“The union has been bringing this to your attention for years,” Beauregard said.

While the district has hired more qualified and unqualified teachers to teach on call, not all of those replacements are available on any given day — resulting in support teachers being called in to fill in, he said.

Administrator Tim Bennett – who chairs the district’s management and finance committee – said the committee received a staffing update on Jan. 17 from the district’s director of human resources. The district currently employs 170 teacher-qualified teachers on call (TTOC) and 94 teachers unqualified teacher-on-call (TTUC). Since September, the district has hired 31 full-time teachers, 12 qualified on-call teachers and 71 unqualified on-call teachers.

“We are seeing significantly higher than average absences due to COVID-19…due to a whole bunch of things,” Bennett said. “HR shares the same concerns as Mr. Beauregard: making sure that these TTOCs and TTUCs get to the classrooms.”

A current and ongoing School District 57 job posting for casual TTUCs indicates that the district is seeking uncertified elementary and secondary substitute teachers in Prince George, surrounding rural areas, Mackenzie and in the Robson Valley.

“Candidates will preferably have a post-secondary education in a related field, as well as a variety of recent experience working with children or adolescents,” the job posting states.

District Acting Superintendent Cindy Heitman said she is grateful to district staff who have worked hard to ensure schools can remain open for students in the difficult circumstances.

“This new variant (of COVID-19) has certainly been a challenge – in our district and across the province,” she said. “Keeping our schools open is really important for the safety, well-being and education of our learners.”

Andrew B. Reiter