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B.C. School districts asking retired teachers to come back to work

Click to play video 'New hirings may lead to shortage of on-call teachers' New hirings may lead to shortage of on-call teachers
The race is on to hire about 1100 teachers, the first step in complying with the BCTF's landmark court win late last year. But that's led to two issues, a likely shortage of on-call teachers and those who want to work in northern school districts. John Hua explains – Jan 12, 2017

School districts are reaching into the retirement pool as part of a teacher hiring spree across the province.

Many on-call teachers are being bumped up to full-time contract positions after the provincial government announced $50 million in funding after its legal loss to the B.C. Teachers Federation. The changes have left a gap in the supply of substitutes.

READ MORE: Province announces $50M to hire more teachers in B.C.

“The school district is phoning and they’re asking, ‘Are you interested in [substituting],” said Jim Graham who retired only six months ago.

The teacher who called it a career after 36 years admits it came as a surprise, considering the Maple Ridge School District where he worked had a rule excluding retirees from the on-call list.

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“That’s where the pinch is going to be,” said George Serra, Maple Ridge Teachers Association president.

“We have the teachers-on-call that are now going to be able to fill the new contract positions, but we don’t have number of new teachers applying to be on-call teachers.”

Serra says a large number of retirees aren’t interested in going back to work.

“A lot of our retired teachers you know are not going to make themselves available five days a week and want to work every day,” he said.

The Ministry of Education said part of the initial funding isn’t just to hire new teachers, but to develop ways to help fill the gaps.

“[Districts are] also able to use the funds to start addressing their needs by upgrading existing teacher qualifications, teacher recruitment programs and teacher mentoring programs in this year.”

The on-call list isn’t the only area that might face a major shortage in the wake of a teacher shuffle. Education advocates are warning of a migration of teachers current working in more remote areas.

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“The northern districts are going to lose out to the southern districts,” said Patricia Clough, BC Retired Teachers Association president.

Clough says while some schools offer extra pay as a means to attract and retain teachers in remote areas, it won’t be enough to fill the professional pool depleted after years of cutbacks.

“Now it’s ‘oh no we need teachers,'” she said. “And we don’t have them.”

Jim Graham says while he may offer to teach a day here and there, that doesn’t mean he’ll be at the district’s beck and call.

There are also no long-term guarantees.

“We’ll see how the first 5 a.m. call goes.”