It would appear some of the schools in the Brandon School Division are bursting at the seams.
The class size limit legislation, as tabled by the government earlier in its mandate, now shows to be having a negative effect on its proposed outcome as the physical space in most schools has not kept up to the current need.
The idea, in theory, is a good one and many support the need for smaller, more intimate class sizes as the exposure to quality education at a young age is far more possible. But the promise of smaller class sizes in divisions like Brandon seems to be a difficult challenge to meet as available space and class dynamics are ever changing.
In our division, as with some of our Winnipeg counterparts, use of portable classrooms to temporarily meet the need of a growing population is on the rise, and construction delays have caused some schools to still be in flux while staff are forced to break the rule as it was proposed.
There is little doubt staff in this division are struggling to the meet the smaller class size requirements, having limited space and resources.
It is a constant struggle for most of the schools in our division to cope with this ever-changing dynamic. Many do not have the physical space to meet the need, and in the case of some schools, enrolment has ballooned in the last five years, stretching already thin resources to the limit.
The need prompted the BSD to go a little maverick and buck the trend stated earlier by the province to hold off on expansion of staff.
A while back, trustees planned to begin hiring a number of the needed staff in anticipation, as opposed to as a reaction to the upcoming class size legislation — a decision that drew scrutiny from the education minister, who questioned the decision to hire the staff, seeing it better left up to the minds on Broadway to manage the numbers the way they saw fit.
Now, this column is not meant to detract from the proposed investment that will see $15 million flow into the renovation of 28 classrooms throughout the province or further the need for a handful of new schools throughout Manitoba. It is merely to note that in some cases and jurisdictions it may be a bit behind the need currently.
This is one of the main reasons for the proactive decision by trustees in Brandon to pre-plan, and as a result take some flack from the community and government in the process.
At the time, it was a decision that caused some fairly heated exchanges between trustees and the education minister.
Fast forward a few months and we are able to see the Selinger government preening its feathers and licking its wounds to some extent after a monster session of the legislature, while speaking on the fact that the government is being proactive in meeting the needs of Manitobans through an announcement of further investment in the programs mandate.
The decision and subsequent press release acts in contradiction to trustees, who had become increasingly frustrated in dealing with the levels of bureaucracy that came with going against the grain.
It now leaves the division and the province to wonder where to go next. Obviously, government and our trustees have been at odds over the best solution to the mandate — a mandate, I might add, that many support as it has the best interests of our youth in mind.
That’s why, as tempting as it would be for the Brandon School Division to throw the move into the face of provincial reps, trustees know this is the best time to bury the hatchet and support the government in its newfound knowledge of how to best handle the project.
The mindset needs to remain at every level to keep the best interests of students, teachers and taxpayers in mind.
I think trustees have done an admirable job in securing this decision to hire 30-plus teachers over the coming years as a legacy project for their administration and a decision many could hang their hat on come election time.
No doubt it cost the taxpayers money, and they must remain cognizant of that fact.
But hard feelings in the long relationship with government may be dashed aside if some praise for the decision to act came Brandon’s way and a word of encouragement were to come from government on a job well done.
It may not happen as most governments are reluctant to say they have erred. But in this case, some shared recognition can go a long way to mending fences while funding projects.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 13, 2013