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Coquitlam Teachers' Association concerned about larger classes

Coquitlam Teachers
Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King has concerns about the high number of classes with the maximum number of students in School District 43.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO

Cuts made earlier this year to stem the bleeding at School District 43 are showing up in larger class sizes and the Coquitlam Teachers' Association (CTA) says this is a worrying trend.

Dozens more classes have the maximum number of students, compared to last year, and more students with special needs are being squeezed into these larger classes.

Charley King, the CTA president, says this is the result of the district chopping 80 teachers in a bid to cut $12 million and balance the budget for 2013/’14.

"This ought to be a concern of any parent or member of the public," King said, noting the statistics report a worrying trend that may not improve because the district continues to have financial constraints.

The numbers reported by the province show class size averages also increased slightly this year and the number of classes with three or more special needs students with individual education plans has also climbed.

One of the biggest changes seems to be in the number of classes with the maximum number of students.

In kindergarten the number of classes at the maximum rose from 14 to 22; in Grades 1 to 3, that number went from 30 to 72; in Grades 4 to 7, the increase was from 48 to 125; and in Grades 8 to 12, it was 360 to 400. (The legislated maximums are 22 students for kindergarten classes, 24 for Grades 1 to 3, and 30 for Grades 4 to 12).

King said it's not surprising classes are larger and more complex after the district whittled down its teaching staff to avoid a deficit. But he said he's worried about the impact on student learning this year and what the future holds for 2014.

"This should be about access and students getting what they need," King said, laying some of the blame for larger and more complex classes on the province.

 

DIFFICULT TO COMPARE

SD43 assistant superintendent Sylvia Russell agreed that cuts to teaching staff have resulted in larger class sizes but she said efforts were made not to exceed maximums unless teachers requested larger classes for subjects such as band and choir.

Russell also said it's difficult to compare last year with this year because the province changed the definition of a class. Special programs for students with learning difficulties are now counted as classes and they have a higher proportion of students with special needs.

"It happened because there was a change in the definition of class," Russell said. "I can't give you a good analysis on the impact of kids with special needs."

But she said the district is no longer a provincial leader in larger class sizes because more districts are keeping classes to the legislated maximum to avoid paying teachers for extra students.

"We're still very high at [Grades] 4-to-7 and at the 8-to-12 level but we're in the range with other districts," she said.

dstranedberg@tricitynews.com

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