Public board expects to hire 54 teachers to meet enrolment growth

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


For the first time in 14 years, the public school board is expecting to see its enrolment and teaching staff grow.

Enrolment for the 2017-18 school year is expected to increase by about 400 students requiring an additional 54 teachers.

School board officials credited the Windsor area’s improving economy and immigration for the growth.

“Certainly employment in the Windsor-Essex area has a number of families coming back from Alberta and other areas,” said John Howitt, superintendent of education overseeing the elementary schools.

“The downturn over the last decade is reversing itself.

“Newcomers from Syria also continue to benefit our enrolment.”

It’s projected the elementary system will need 35 teachers of which 28 are full-time positions. About 19 full-time teachers will be hired at the secondary level.

Currently, the Greater Windsor Essex District School Board has 35,390 students. The growth is evenly split between the secondary and elementary levels.

Howitt said the reduction in class sizes negotiated in the latest teacher contracts has also bumped up the number of teachers to be hired for September.

In addition to the 54 teachers to be offered contracts, the board will add nearly 50 names to its long-term occasional teaching list.

“We could still see further growth over the summer,” Howitt said. “We’re finding more parents are registering their children for JK/SK in the summer than before,” he added.

The pattern of growth in the elementary level is evenly spread.

“French Immersion is really growing and those schools are spread across our system,” Howitt said. “We’ve also added another French Immersion program in Leamington for the fall.”

The benefits of enrolment growth will have a ripple effect across the system, especially with provincial funding to manage excess capacity being eliminated.

Most importantly, it has helped the board balance its budget for the coming year after running deficits for the past two years.

“It allows us the flexibility to address the innovative programming we want to get into and maintain the programming people want,” Howitt said.

The board is particularly encouraged to see growth at the secondary level. Forecasts from just a couple of years ago had predicted a continuing and significant decline in high school enrolment.

Instead, the board expects to see an improvement of 194 students when the doors open in September.

“The more students we have, the more programming we can offer,” said Dina Salitiniri, superintendent of education overseeing secondary staffing.

“We can prepare them more for the post-secondary piece and they can take courses they want.”

The areas of enrolment growth at the secondary level are primarily in South Windsor, LaSalle and Leamington.

Massey and Leamington high schools will account for well over half of those students. Massey is expecting an extra 70 to 80 students while Leamington is growing by 35 to 40.

“Massey will be close to 2,000 students,” Salitiniri said. “They have the enriched programming as well as some advanced placement programs. A new healthcare program for students interested in the medical field is going from three sections (75 students) to nine sections (225 students).”

The board is introducing International Baccalaureate programs at Leamington and Riverside this fall.

Salitiniri said the growth in Leamington can be attributed to programming and the opening of the new high school this fall.

“The IB program and a new school are factors, but we’ve also got popular manufacturing, music, sports and hospitality programs there,” Salitiniri said.

“There are also several newcomers settling in that area, probably for employment reasons.”