Dozens of teachers staff are heading to the South Okanagan to fill spots opened up by a recent agreement between teachers and the province on classroom sizes.
School District 67 director of instruction for human resources Jason Corday said the Okanagan-Skaha district is looking to add around 35 full-time equivalents (FTEs) in staff, which would add a little over 10 percent to their current staff of 335 FTEs.
But while some school districts have struggled with bringing in a major influx of employees, Corday said that hasn’t been much of a problem in SD67.
“One of the advantages we have is we’re a desirable place for people to come and work,” Corday said. “So, we were able to attract and hire a substantial number of new employees from the Lower Mainland and from northern districts.”
Those numbers don’t reflect the actual number of employees in teaching positions at the district, however, as the full-time equivalent only reflects the number of staffing hours required. One full-time equivalent could be two part-time employees.
“We work really hard at recruiting. We increased our returning efforts over and above what we would normally do,” Corday said. “This year I’ve hired approximately 40 new people to our district.”
While rural and smaller city areas like Penticton and the South Okanagan often face difficulties attracting professionals like doctors — particularly younger doctors — Corday said that hasn’t been an issue for the Penticton area.
“It doesn’t mean where potentially not looking at some challenge s to fill positions, but we’re fortunate in this district,” he said. “There’s a lot of qualified and strong applicants from around the province who want to be here.”
School District 53 Supt. Bev Young, too, said the Okanagan-Similkameen district hasn’t faced too many difficulties, though that’s in part because the district got to work on hiring fairly quickly.
“We’ve done most of our hiring already. So, right now, we do have a few outstanding postings. Some of that is some challenges with recruiting in specialized areas that came up late,” Young said.
“Compared to maybe some of our other districts, I think we’re in pretty good shape. We did get out of the gate pretty early.”
Having hired around 25 full-time equivalents already — making about 30 or 35 part-time spots — Young said the district is hoping to hire another five or so part-time spots.
“So that’s, for a district our size, that’s pretty significant,” Young said, noting that SD67 is more than double the size of her district.
Coming up to the new semester, Young said she expects there may be some hitches in the process, as new teachers to the area begin looking for housing.
“That is going to be a challenge. I don’t know how folks are doing with that,” she said. “Housing definitely is a challenge, just because of the mere supply.”
But Corday said that hasn’t been an issue he’s been made aware of as teachers move to the Penticton area. He believes part of that is because some teachers own houses in the area from which they are coming, which means they aren’t attempting to get into Penticton’s near-zero vacancy rental market.
“Surprisingly not. When we do interview and hire, obviously we want to assist in the transition, and I haven’t had any feedback whatsoever,” he said, noting everyone has been able to find housing so far. “If they’re selling in the Lower Mainland and coming up here, it’s an advantageous situation. And that’s probably 25 per cent of our hires.”
Though Young said there’s worse problems to have, including reducing staffing in years previous and the dramatic school closures issue in Osoyoos last summer.
“Definitely in other years, we were looking at reducing staffing because of various, various factors, and then that’s always not a good thing to go through,” Young said.
Final numbers for teachers both districts will need to hire in the end won’t be known for some weeks, or even months, when the enrolment numbers are finalized. Corday said SD67 saw a minor increase in enrolment last year.
“I’m not going to estimate whether we’ll increase, but I don’t think we’ll decrease,” he said. “So, I’d say status quo or the potential of increase, but not going to go down.”