Advertisement

Class sizes getting larger for most grades, Edmonton Public Schools report finds

Figures presented before the Edmonton Public School Board on Jan. 23, 2024, suggest most grades are experiencing higher than normal class sizes across the school division. (Aaron Sousa/CBC - image credit)
Figures presented before the Edmonton Public School Board on Jan. 23, 2024, suggest most grades are experiencing higher than normal class sizes across the school division. (Aaron Sousa/CBC - image credit)

Most grade levels within Edmonton Public Schools are dealing with higher than normal class sizes, according to a report presented to board trustees Tuesday.

Figures suggest all grades, except Kindergarten to Grade 3, are experiencing a higher proportion of English language learners compared to the past five years. There's a similar trend in a higher proportion of students with disabilities in all grades.

In addition, the largest elementary classes are getting bigger, and high school classes with more than 30 kids are also larger.

The report found junior high classes with fewer than 25 students are shrinking, while those with more than 25 kids are growing.

The largest class sizes between all four divisions range from 37 to 56 students — despite Alberta's Commission on Learning recommending class sizes between 17 and 27 students.

Darrel Robertson, superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, said some classes, like drama and physical education, are purposefully larger since it’s more helpful for teachers.
Darrel Robertson, superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, said some classes, like drama and physical education, are purposefully larger since it’s more helpful for teachers.

Darrel Robertson, superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, said some classes, like drama and physical education, are purposefully larger since it’s more helpful for teachers. (Aaron Sousa/CBC)

Superintendent Darrel Robertson, when asked why some classes have fewer students than others, said it typically involves scenarios where it's more helpful for teachers to have more students in the same classroom, such as band, drama and physical education.

"When we get into smaller classes, it's often a spot where we had a child move [classes]," he said.

Robertson gave the example of a student transitioning to a class of lower difficulty.

"They're sitting in the same classroom with that cohort," he said.

"The instruction is modified on an individual basis, but the school — for whatever reason — wasn't either able to timetable that child into a section or had to find some way to accommodate."

While there's been no massive upward trend in core high school class sizes over the last five years, there are more classes with over 30 kids. Robertson said the limited number of teaching spaces also plays a role.

Some high schools don't have extra classrooms, he said. It forces administrators to consolidate classes to accommodate students for their graduation requirements. If schools have space, they can divvy up the class sizes.

"But in some of our high schools, that's really not a possibility," he said.

The report also found more than 5,800 new students entered the Edmonton public school system in September 2023, largely influenced by the provincial government's "Alberta is Calling" campaign.

Ward F Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Julie Kusiek
Ward F Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Julie Kusiek

Julie Kusiek, chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, said trustees and expect continued enrolment growth over the current academic year. (Submitted by Julie Kusiek)

Julie Kusiek, chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, told reporters after Tuesday's meeting that trustees predict a larger increase for next year, and expect continued enrolment growth over the current academic year.

"What that means for our class sizes is as students register, we accommodate them within our existing classrooms," she said.

"As classrooms get bigger, principals and teachers will look at the situation and evaluate whether or not they may need to split the class."

To account for fewer classroom spaces, Kusiek said the board is hoping the province will fund the construction of more schools in the upcoming spring budget.

"What we need to see is shovels in the ground … so that we can get students into new classrooms so we can maintain excellent learning environments for kids," Kusiek said.