The latest numbers on class sizes for Burnaby schools are out, and the overwhelming majority of classrooms are within provincial guidelines.
"Of the 2,880 classes in (the) Burnaby school district, the number of classes at or below (the) recommended size limit is 98.8 per cent," said new superintendent Kevin Kaardal in an email to the NOW.
According to Kaardal's report presented at the last school board meeting, there were 37 secondary classes that exceeded provincial guidelines of the 30 students maximum, but 30 of those classes are exempt from the size limits because they are for band, drama or choir, which naturally require larger numbers.
As for special needs students, there are no limits anymore, now that the provincial government's Bill 22 is in effect, but principals must consult teachers if the class contains more than 30 students - special needs or not.
Burnaby schools have 301 secondary and 44 elementary classes with four or more "designated" or special needs students. Those numbers don't sit well with Burnaby Teachers' Association president James Sanyshyn.
"I'm not comfortable with that number, but I'm not going to blame the district for it," Sanyshyn said. "When you are basically doubling, tripling, quadrupling the number of special needs in a class, because provincial legislation allows it, no, teachers are not satisfied with the current situation. The district holds its nose because of its fiduciary responsibility and does what the ministry asks it to do, but in a lot of cases,
they realize those classes are not the best learning situation. Sadly, the superintendent . has to sign off on those."
When asked if Sanyshyn had concerns about the composition numbers, he said they were "school specific."
"There are some schools where there are real concerns, and again, you can imagine which parts of town those are in. When you've got eight special needs or more in a class, it's harder to teach," he said.
The term "special needs" could cover anything from a mild intellectual disability to a profound disability, to deafness or hard-of-hearing, visual impairment or blindness. According to Sanyshyn, who has worked in education for two decades, class size and composition have been bones of contention between B.C. teachers and the provincial government since Christy Clark stripped the limits from teachers' collective agreements in 2002.