Quebec boards say they have more classes than teachers as kids return to school

MONTREAL — As Quebec students return to school this week, many are heading into classrooms without a full-time, qualified teacher to learn from, two Montreal-area school boards say.

Too few education graduates coupled with soaring immigration has led to a teacher shortage that has school boards scrambling for personnel amid what one union leader describes as a crisis.

Gina Guillemette, a spokeswoman for the Montreal-area Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board, said the board was still missing about 40 full-time teachers on the first day of school.

While there’s an adult in every classroom, the board has been forced to fill the gap with substitute teachers, some of whom don’t have a teaching degree.

“It’s not a scenario we hope for, but you know, we’re in the context of a very real shortage, like several other boards, and unfortunately that’s the reality,” she said in a phone interview.

She said that number will likely decrease as the board hires new recruits, but that still means children will finish the year with a different teacher than they started with.

At the biggest school board, the Commission scolaire de Montreal, the teacher shortfall is even higher: chairwoman Catherine Harel Bourdon said Thursday they’re still looking for more than 100 teachers a day after classes began.

On Thursday, the head of the province’s largest teachers’ unions warned that the number of students was expected to rise by 65,000 in the next five years while the number of teaching school graduates is declining.

“The conditions are right for the education network to experience a major crisis in the coming years,” Sonia Ethier said.

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