With the influx of Syrian refugees, Regina Public Schools (RPS) will have about 160 more students in the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program this year, but the division won’t be hiring any more teachers.
There are 38 EAL teaching positions in the Regina public school system, and Greg Enion, director of education for RPS, said it’s not getting any funding for more teachers.
“From the school division perspective, we do not have the resources that we need to be able to meet the needs of all these children. And we’re going to have to triage the staffing and the supports that we have now to try to go to the students with the highest level of need.”
Staff has and is being moved around in the division to where they’re needed most. In some cases, because Syrian refugees are coming in with little to no English, they will take priority.
“We’re going to have to take some of those resources that we may have had in place for other refugees, or other new Canadians, and put that in place for the Syrian refugees,” explained Enion.
Students are placed in schools based on where they live, though the school division tries to keep the EAL population in a school to only 10 to 15 per cent. Elementary school EAL students are placed in normal classes according to their age, and EAL teachers travel to schools to work with them. The situation is similar for high school EAL students who have more English. High school EAL students with very limited English skills are bused to Campus Regina, where they focus on English until they have enough to transition back to the community school.
For the past few years the public school division has had about 700 to 750 students enrolled in its EAL program. This year there are 751 students, plus the 108 Syrian refugees that will be in classes by the end of the month, putting the total up to 859. Another estimated 50 Syrian refugees students are expected to arrive by the end of the year.
Enion admitted it can be difficult for teachers.
“Our enrolment has grown considerably over the last couple of years and now, to add this high number of refugee students on top of this, it is very challenging for our teachers.”
Enion wouldn’t comment on where the funding should be coming from, or whether someone should have foreseen the problem.
“This is a work in progress as we try to create an environment where all of our students can find success. At the same time we want this to be an environment where all of our staff feels fulfillment and that their contributions and work is meaningful and appreciated,” said Enion.