Lower than average class sizes expected at local boards

An empty classroom. (Photo by Wokandapix from Pixabay)

With smaller class sizes and additional teaching staff, parents are being reassured that their children will be safe when they come back to school next week.

During a media conference on Thursday morning, Lambton Kent District School Board Director of Education John Howitt responded to concerns about collapsed and combined classrooms. Howitt said he believes that there is some confusion about what’s going on with staffing in schools.

According to Howitt, around 1,000 of the board’s secondary school students have opted for virtual learning while about 2,000 elementary students will be taking their studies online, equalling a total of around 15 per cent of the Lambton Kent District School Board’s student body.

“When those students come out of the schools, they need a teacher,” explained Howitt. “If for example there were 36 Grade 2s in two classes of 18, and 18 of them chose to leave, we didn’t create two classes of nine, we kept a class of 18 and moved the second teacher into the virtual school.”

Howitt said the board has added additional staff to help lower classroom size averages. According to Howitt, the overall board-wide averages inĀ Full-Day Kindergarten have decreased from 24.8 students to 20, Grade 1-3 class sizes have gone from an average of 18.57 to 18 while class sizes for Grade 4-8 have gone from an average of 24.65 to 22.

“We’ve added approximately 25 teaching staff into the face to face learning to bring those class sizes down in the face to face realm,” he said. “The class sizes have not increased in face to face.”

According to Howitt, there are no caps on class sizes as a result of the pandemic. However, there are standard class size regulations in place that range from 29 students per class for Full-Day Kindergarten to 24.5 students for Grades 4-8.

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board is also reporting reduced average class sizes according to Director of Education Deb Crawford.

Crawford said about 12 per cent of elementary students and 13 per cent of secondary students with the board are choosing the online model. She added that The St. Clair Catholic District School Board has added several staff members to adjust to the changes.

“We’ve hired an additional, around 22 teachers so that we’re able to keep our class sizes down in the face to face model and provide instructors for the virtual model,” she explaind.

According to Crawford, the board has also added early childhood educators, program resource teachers and educational assistants to support virtual classrooms. She said the goal is to keep classroom disruptions as minimal as possible.

“We’re trying to keep as many of our classrooms in the planning intact so that as the students may be changing and come back to the face to face model, their classrooms will be there,” said Crawford.

Crawford added that at this point there is no need to use any empty schools across the region to support extra physical distancing and there are plans in place should class sizes become too large.

“We’re finding that if we did have larger classrooms, we’d be looking at using larger spaces in schools,” she said. “We would use the library to allow more physical distancing as opposed to the classroom if that became necessary.”