With Calgary students returning to school this year, advocates wonder how the education system will handle all the newcomers.
Many children in the southern Calgary community of Mahogany are able to attend classes in their community for the first time. Until now, the children who live here have been taken to Riverbend, a 15km bus ride.
Mahogony School has about 530 students from Kindergarten to Grade 4 registered for the 2022-23 school year, with a capacity of 600 students when the school expands to 5th grade next September.
It’s one of four new schools opening this week in Calgary, including two in Auburn Bay and one at Prairie Sky on the city’s eastern edge.
Alberta will begin online registration of teachers and school administrators this September
But education advocates wonder if the new schools will have enough room for all students to return to the classroom.
Our Student Support Alberta says this year is especially important, after years of disruption due to COVID-19. They worry too many children will be cornered into classes so students can get the support they need.
“We’ve seen class sizes increase this year for a number of reasons – many children return from remote, under-funded learning situations that we monitor quite closely – all will spill downstream and the impact will be larger class sizes throughout the province,” said Wing Li, communications director for Student Aid Alberta.
What the average class size is expected to be in Calgary and across the province is still unknown.
The Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District note that the province has discontinued class-specific funding and supervision for the 2020-21 school year.
Both school systems said they continue to work to maintain reasonable class sizes.
CBE will see more than 126,000 students enroll districtwide this year, an increase of more than 3,000 students from 2020-21. At least 600 new CBE students have moved to Calgary from Ukraine.
CCSD expects about 1,500 new students.
The opposition NDP questioned how the education system would keep up with the growth.
NDP Education critic Sarah Hoffman said on Thursday: “We talked to teachers about complexity in the classroom. “We have more refugee students this year – in larger numbers than we used to see in the past – plus we have larger class sizes because we know the government has not kept up with inflation or population increase. So it will not produce successful children. “
“At the same time, we know that it is possible that Alberta students are still struggling with significant academic decline,” continued Hoffman.
“This is the year when we need to use the most resources to make up for the learning deficits that are not the fault of the children, not the fault of their parents.”
The province said it had enough funding.
In a statement, Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange insisted there was sufficient funding and support for teachers.
“It is disappointing to see some individuals in the education system and the public playing politics on many children’s first day back to school. The school authorities are very well funded. In fact, they are being funded at a record rate and over the past few years have saved tens of millions of dollars in operating reserves,” La Grange said in a statement.
The province acknowledged that it eliminated individual class size tracking and switched to a new funding model when UCP formed a government in 2019.
“I understand that bringing in an entirely new funding model in 2019, right before the pandemic, is a learning curve for everyone. That is why we have said from the very beginning that we will listen to school authorities and make changes as needed,” the statement from La Grange continued. Students are returning to school with the staff, resources and support they need to succeed in the 2022/23 school year.”
The Alberta Teachers Association said final enrollment numbers will not be available for several weeks as students continue to register, but ATA said the association has heard from teachers saying class sizes Theirs has increased this year.
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