One teacher for 35 students: parents give school failing grade


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One Winnipeg elementary teacher’s class list of Grade 4, 5 and 6 students has grown to 35, the result of which is an overcrowded room in stark contrast to the settings public health officials touted early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One Winnipeg elementary teacher’s class list of Grade 4, 5 and 6 students has grown to 35, the result of which is an overcrowded room in stark contrast to the settings public health officials touted early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Winnipeg School Division’s policy is “insofar as possible” to cap regular elementary classes above kindergarten at 33 pupils.

Two multi-age classrooms at École Luxton School have reached or exceeded that threshold in 2022-23.

“How do we go from COVID, where they weren’t in school for X amount of months to now cramming them in like sardines and offering them no support?” said Tyler Rogers, a father of a fourth grader who has more than 33 classmates.

“It’s leading to a lot of stress and anxiety amongst the kids because the whole atmosphere in there is very high intensity because there’s so many kids crammed in.”

Teacher on leave, class taught by sub

A handful of families told the Free Press their children are suffering as a result of administrators’ poor planning, citing the fact cohorts in question were sizable when their students were in younger grades and classes were nearing the ceiling at the start of the year.

An educational assistant was recently assigned to split time between Luxton’s two full Grade 4-5-6 English classes, but parents claim a part-time helper is insufficient to meet every pupil’s needs.

Rogers’ son has a learning disability and several of the boy’s peers are newcomers who are studying English as an additional language.

Their classroom teacher could only do so much for all the kids with the limited tools she was given, the father said, noting the educator just went on leave so the school is relying on a substitute to manage the crowded classroom.

Angela Inkster said her 10-year-old comes home from Grade 5 with complaints about frequent classroom disruptions daily because it is impossible for a single adult to manage so many kids on their own.

“There’s no one-on-one. There’s not enough of (the teacher) to divide herself,” the mother said, adding she is aware her daughter’s teacher has purchased furniture out-of-pocket to accommodate the sheer number of learners enrolled in the class.

Inkster noted her elementary schooler found e-learning during the height of the pandemic easier than in-person learning this year due to all the distractions.

Class size ‘always linked to funding’

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society declined to comment on a specific situation, but president James Bedford said class size and composition is “a critical issue” in multigrade classrooms since educators are teaching several curricula simultaneously.

“Class size is always linked to funding and there’s no two ways around it: larger class sizes are invariably a result of the system not simply being able to employ more teachers,” Bedford said.

Ward 7 trustee Tamara Kuly, a parent at Luxton who represents area residents, said she is aware of the class size issue and has followed protocols to alert division leaders of it.

Division spokeswoman Radean Carter said ongoing enrolment since Labour Day led to the addition of an EA in November and steps have been initiated to hire a teacher to form a third intermediate classroom at the Grade 5/6 level.

Principal Joy Perrott wrote community members on Monday to inform them of the new plans. “The parent advisory council has been a strong advocate in voicing the need for the additional classroom. Although it will be a bit of a shift for some students, we are all convinced that it will be best for learning,” Perrott said in a letter.

Parents skeptical improvements coming

Both Rogers and Inkster are skeptical about the announcement because parents have been calling for change for months without success.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Inkster said.

“Back in October, I had suggested they open another classroom and get another teacher. (I was told by senior WSD administration): ‘It wasn’t possible this school year.’”

School divisions have been entirely responsible for determining class sizes across their buildings for the last five years. As of 2017-18, the Tories scrapped an NDP regulation that prohibited K-3 classrooms from exceeding 20 pupils — a decision that the teachers’ society condemns to this day.

Education Minister Wayne Ewasko defended the move in a statement in which he said his party inherited a mess, owing to years of government mismanagement and “the lack of foresight to invest in school capital projects like building new schools.”

The Pallister government made a promise to open 20 new schools in 10 years; six new public schools — including two in Winnipeg — have opened since 2019.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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