With the idea floated earlier this year about finding ways to improve and track class size in schools, some school boards have issued concerns that local decision-making might be eroded.
A letter from Red Deer Public Schools (RDPS) to Education Minister David Eggen in June outlined those concerns and called for the minister to engage school boards in discussions about the best direction to go in the future. RDPS feels local boards have knowledge on the issues and would ultimately be implementing any changes.
That being said, both school divisions that serve Ponoka and area — Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) and St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic Schools — are not worried about Alberta Education taking away any autonomy from the school boards.
“The current model of targeting funds to address class size is serving Wolf Creek well, in that we maintain local autonomy to understand and address our unique classroom and school needs,” explained new WCPS board chair Pam Hansen.
“Ensuring adequate funding levels are maintained is extremely important to ensure we can provide optimal learning conditions for students.”
Hansen added that any class size funding is fully allocated by WCPS to employ teachers and ensure the division stays below or as close to the provincial average as possible.
Last year’s statistics (2017-18), provided by WCPS, bear that out with the division only coming in slightly above the Alberta average in the Grade 7 to 9 area — at 24.3 students versus the provincial average of 23.5. The other areas were all below: Kindergarten to Gr. 3 — 19.2 versus 20.2; Gr. 4 to 6 — 22.2 versus 22.8; and, Gr. 10 to 12 — 22.9 versus 23.2.
“Class size is complex in relation to class composition and degree of diversity in the classroom. For example, a highly diverse classroom of 15 students at the Grade 4 level is much different than a Chemistry 30 classroom of 35 students,” she said.
As for STAR Catholic, board chair Michelle Lamer explained the division is content with how class sizes are funded.
“The Government of Alberta provides funding to help address class size issues, specifically in the Kindergarten to Grade 3 levels. STAR Catholic is pleased with that funding model and uses it to manage pressures that may exist,” she said.
The only class size information that STAR provided was for Kindergarten to Gr. 3 at St. Augustine School for 2017-18, at 21.6, slightly above the provincial average.
On the subject of the province unilaterally taking action on class size, Hansen noted the WCPS board believes local decisions on how best to direct funds are the most effective and that current practices demonstrate that to the minister.