Skip to content

Early childhood educators to be affected by Surrey Schools hiring freeze

Support workers ‘overloaded’ and ‘stretched too thin’: union
Early childhood educators and support workers are being affected by a Surrey school district-wide hiring freeze due to a budget crunch. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck photo)

The cutting of a couple StrongStart programs in Surrey is resulting in some staff cuts for the service — and the support workers’ union warns the move will make the “already overloaded” educators even closer to burning out.

At the recent regular school board meeting on May 8, trustees approved a hiring freeze for some district staff positions. The district states that the positions affected are ones that “do not directly support our core educational objectives” for both union and non-union employees.

RELATED: ‘It’s just what we have to do’: Program, service cuts coming to Surrey schools

As a result, CUPE 728 early childhood educator and education assistant roles will be included in the hiring freeze. Additionally, about three staff member positions will be removed due to two StrongStart programs being cut from the district.

“EAs, early childhood educators, child and youth care workers – these workers provide crucial in-class support for students, many of them with very complex learning needs,” Tammy Murphy, a school support worker and president of CUPE 728, said in a press release.

StrongStart is a free provincewide program for children up to five years old that serves as a precursor to kindergarten. In the Surrey school district, funding has not increased since 2008, which has led the board to cut two of the 25 programs due to difficulties in funding the porgram.

“These school support workers are already overloaded,” Murphy goes on to say.

“With another 2,500 students expected in the district next year, staff are going to burn out.”

In an emailed response, the district states the changes come from a “challenging set of circumstances” where enrolment is growing at a rapid pace, a teacher shortage is affecting operations, and inflation is resulting in rising costs to run programs and services.

“We will not be eliminating any other existing CUPE roles such (as) education assistants or early childhood educators. Currently, during the hiring freeze, we may be restricting filling new positions,” the statement reads.

The district states that early childhood educator positions will be re-added to the district once a new land-based program begins running at Hall’s Prairie Elementary and when new schools, like Ta’talu Elementary, open.

With more than 5,000 support workers across the district, Murphy says the number of staff is still not enough to serve the students who need the service. The union president adds that the group is “already stretched too thin.”

“We understand the challenges facing the Surrey school district. But it seems every option is coming at the expense of school support workers,” Murphy said.

“A hiring freeze for support staff jobs will hurt Surrey students, and even more so for students that need the most in-class support. To say these jobs don’t contribute to core education objectives of the district is short-sighted – and for the dedicated people that do those jobs, it’s demoralizing and a bit insulting.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
Read more