New Westminster Teachers’ Union says trustees should consider the impact of teacher absences

The New Westminster Teachers’ Union wants school trustees to consider the impact of teacher absences on students and staff when analyzing the district’s monthly report on absences and coverage.

The report, prepared by Robert Weston, the district’s director of human resources, lists the number of teachers and education assistants who were absent in the previous month and how many are covered by a teacher on call or substitute.

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According to the most recent report, which included both November and December, there were 61 enrolling (classroom) teacher absences not filled by a teacher on call in November. That number rose to 67 in December. Those absences are then covered by non-enrolling teachers or school-based administrators.

“So what is the impact that has on our staff and, more importantly, what is that impact having on our students?” New Westminster Teachers’ Union president Eric Young asked trustees at last month’s school board meeting.

Young said trustees should “consider a different number” when looking at the data.

He said they should combine the number of enrolling and non-enrolling teacher absences that weren’t covered by a teacher on call.

“If you look at November, it’s 142 teaching days that were not covered by a teacher on call, which is approximately eight teachers a day that were not replaced,” he said.

In December, there were 136 absences left uncovered – that’s approximately nine absences per day, Young said.

Weston said finding replacements for non-enrolling teachers, which includes teacher librarians, teacher counsellors and learning support teachers, is a challenge.

Only about 23 per cent of non-enrolling teacher absences are covered by a teacher on call each month compared to 86 per cent of enrolling (classroom) teachers, he added.

As for education assistants, in November there were 314 absences with only 53 per cent covered by a substitute. In December, there were 363 absences by education assistants and 72 per cent of those absences were covered, according to the report.

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