Class size matters

Local resident pushes for changes in the classroom

H

ow many parents and taxpayers in local school districts are familiar with B.C. provincial guidelines for classroom sizes?

By provincial legislation, class size for kindergarten in a public school cannot exceed 22 students and Grades 1 to 3 cannot exceed 24 students under any circumstances. For Grades 4 to 12, the class size limit is 30, but there is flexibility to exceed that limit for designated subjects where large class sizes are beneficial (such as band, drama and physical education) or where school administrators are confident the learning environment is appropriate to the needs of the students.

Ministry of Education data (available on website) show 2014-15 average class sizes remained at near historical lows of 19.5 students for kindergarten; 21.5 for Grades 1 to 3; 25.6 for Grades 4 to 7 and 23.2 for Grades 8 to 12.

One high school in this local area shows 2015/16 class sizes of 22.3 students, versus provincial maximums of 30.  This means on average for each and every class in this school, there are 7.7 less students than provincial guideline maximums.

Those 7.7 students less in each class also mean about 33 per cent more teachers, benefits, and facilities are required. That is substantial.

What are these actual class sizes currently, for the 2015/16 school year, at your local schools and in the district? Parents and taxpayers need to know this, and require discussions, and accountability – about this topic.

The Supreme Court of Canada will address a court case later this year, where the B.C. Teachers Federation is attempting to assert that it is the union’s right alone (removing these rights from parents, communities, or even elected school district representatives) to determine all students class sizes and special needs composition issues, as a portion of their contracts.

It costs about $150 million (2014/15 $) to reduce one child from a single grade, province wide, per year; this includes the costs of additional teachers, support staff, benefit packages and resources, as well as infrastructure.

In some school districts, that may be the best way to spend these very substantial amounts of money. In others, that ‘one child less’ (or seven students less) per classroom makes a difference as to whether the school will have a librarian, special activities or classes, an outdoor education facilitator, or whether they have busing for children within a certain number of kilometres in the fiercest time of the winter.

Is this something that should be determined by a union, or the parents and communities, who pay the taxes and seek to have their children educated within this system?

Currently, classroom sizes and composition decisions are the right of elected, accountable trustees, in consultation with us – the parents and communities of this area. This should never be determined by union contracts, in my opinion.

Assert your rights, parents and taxpayers. It is time that we, as communities seeking the best for these students, help determine the appropriate way/means to spend our school taxation dollars, and to ensure those dollars and resources actually reach students in classrooms.

We certainly need to exercise our rights to participate in, and determine these class size and composition decisions, while we still have them.

 

Bobbi Fox

Lumby