New Brunswick

N.B. immigration surge causing school staffing, budget pressures, deputy ministers say

New Brunswick schools are doing what they can to hire more staff and create new classrooms in response to significant growth in immigration, according to the Department of Education.

Some schools are creating new classes mid-school year, committee hears

Three portable classrooms
New Brunswick schools are creating new classrooms and hiring new staff throughout the academic year in an effort to keep up with growing enrolment. At the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, the Anglophone East School District had 82 portable classrooms in place. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

New Brunswick schools are doing what they can to hire more staff and create new classrooms in response to significant growth in immigration, according to the Department of Education.

In front of the legislature's standing committee on public accounts, deputy ministers said a consistent flow of new students from outside Canada is making budgeting challenging and forcing schools to quickly adapt.

Ryan Donaghy said one school in the Moncton region is increasing by an average of six students per week. He said that's creating challenges for busing, infrastructure and staffing.

"Not long ago, we were closing schools, and now we're keeping some open even that we announced we would be closing," he said. "It's a lot better to be managing growth than decline, but it doesn't come without its difficulties."

During a full-day meeting, deputy ministers fielded questions from MLAs about the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, school buses and spending on international trips.

WATCH | Julie Beaulieu Mason says immigration numbers difficult to forecast: 

Schools struggle to keep up with new enrolment

2 months ago
Duration 0:51
Deputy Education ministers describe budget, staffing challenges

Miramichi MLA Michelle Conroy agreed the population growth the province is experiencing is a "good problem to have," but asked what challenges have come from rapid growth in school enrolment.

Donaghy said many new students are from outside Canada and arrive in need of language help, requiring districts to hire additional support staff.

Between Oct. 1, 2017, and Oct. 1, 2022, the province saw an increase of 5,179 students, he said.

Deputy Minister Julie Beaulieu Mason said new students from outside Canada are arriving continuously throughout the year.

"We have new students arriving every week essentially, so that throws a different kind of wrench into the school system and sometimes creates new classrooms mid-year, which is another challenge that we really hadn't been privy to in the past," she said.

Conroy asked how enrolment growth and the resulting staff increases are impacting district budgets.

A man with short, dark hair and glasses, wearing a grey suit, white button-down shirt and purple tie, sitting at a long desk, looking at the camera over his left shoulder.
'Not long ago, we were closing schools, and now we're keeping some open even that we announced we would be closing," Ryan Donaghy, deputy minister of Education for the anglophone sector, told the standing committee on public accounts Thursday. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The province hired an additional 600 educational staff between 2017 and 2022, according to the department.

Donaghy said the province has added 37 new educational support teachers since 2021, working specifically with students who need support with English as a second language. He said more than $3 million was invested in tutoring for those students in the past fiscal year.

Mason said the Department of Education is trying to forecast enrolment growth to plan the budget, looking at projections from Statistics Canada.

"Our numbers have been off the last couple of years, obviously the best models are typically wrong," she said.

"We're forecasting now for what we expect September will look like with the best information we have."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

now