PORT HAWKESBURY: While principals and officials with the Strait regional school board (SRSB) are still reviewing a new report from Nova Scotia’s Council to Improve Classroom Conditions, the board is already moving ahead on the class-size caps recommended in the April 28 document.

Established in March as part of provincial legislation that imposed a new contract on Nova Scotia’s unionized teachers, the council is recommending a province-wide class cap of 28 students for junior high and middle school with the flexibility of going to up to 30 students, a province-wide class cap of 30 students for high school with the flexibility of going up to 32 students, and the hiring of at least 139 teachers to accommodate these and other recommendations.

Addressing the report following last week’s regular monthly SRSB meeting at Port Hawkesbury’s SAERC Auditorium, the board’s superintendent of schools, Ford Rice, noted that the board is currently in its staffing process for the 2017-18 academic year but noted that the council’s recommendations will factor into this stage of the board’s preparations for the fall.

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“We’re working with our principals right now to be sure that the class caps that are recommended in the report are adhered to as we move forward on a go-forward basis right now,” Rice told reporters after the May 2 meeting.

“One of the recommendations is that Grades 7 to 9 have a soft class cap of 28 plus two, and a soft cap of 30 plus two for Grades 10 to 12. So because we’re in the staffing process right now, and the board approved the [2017-18] staffing grid during the [special board] meeting on April 26 as well, we are in the process of doing that.”

While he noted that the late-April council report is “a 46-page document” and is still under review at the SRSB administrative level, Rice confirmed that the board intends to follow the council’s implementation timeline.

“We’ll be implementing all the [recommendations] in the report that it says we’ll be implementing in the 2017-18 school year,” Rice declared.

“But as a board right now, we are in the process of reviewing the document. We have an upcoming principals’ meeting scheduled as well, and we will review the document with our principals as well, in terms of the recommendations there.”

Other recommendations from the council include the hiring of additional teachers to support math and literacy in classrooms with high numbers of special-needs students, a pilot project to provide $50,000 in grants for schools where provincial testing has shown a need for additional support in math and literacy, and a request for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) to match the $1 million required for these grants in order to allow 40 such schools to qualify for this funding.

Members of the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions include an SRSB representative, Antigonish Education Centre (AEC) teacher Sean Barker, as well as Ecole acadienne de Pomquet teacher Melanie Belliveau, who represents the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP).