Some Ontario parents say there are 30 to 40 students in their children's classroom
TORONTO -- More students in Ontario are returning to school Thursday for the first time since April and some parents are expressing concern over the number of children in the classroom amid the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an email viewed by CTV News Toronto, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board who asked to remain anonymous tells parents that there will be 38 students in her split Grade 7/8 class and that the size will not change until a “reorganization” in October.
Meanwhile, some parents have taken to social media to describe similar situations in their own children’s classrooms accompanied by the hashtag “UnsafeSeptember2021.”
“One Grade 7 class is at 40 students! 40! They’ll be basically sitting on top of each other,” said Yona Nestel on Twitter. “Ours is 29,” wrote Hannah Sung.
Some Ontario teachers made similar claims coupled with pictures of their crowded classrooms a year ago today as the province began to experience the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the province released its highly-anticipated back-to-school plan, though details on the actual number of children per classroom were vague.
According to the Education Act, the class size limit for junior kindergarten and kindergarten is 29 and classes with mixed grades of 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8, shall have 23 or fewer pupils.
For secondary school classes, the limit should not exceed 23.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, TDSB spokesperson Marcy McMillan said that larger class sizes at the beginning of the year are not unexpected.
“It’s quite common throughout the TDSB each year to have more registrations than projected, which can lead to initially higher class sizes to begin the year,” she said.
“As we do every year, reorganization happens once enrolment numbers are confirmed in September to determine if any staffing adjustments are needed to ensure compliance with provincial class size requirements.”
In the meantime, schools have been encouraged to “remove unnecessary furniture and place desks with as much distancing as possible, and to allow teachers as much teaching space as possible.”
In the back-to-school plan released last month, the government said school boards must be prepared for potential closures and have plans in place so all students can pivot to remote learning if the COVID-19 situation worsens.
However, when asked what would prompt such a school closure, Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore said that he doesn’t expect to have to shutter classrooms.
For the province’s part, a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that distancing in the classroom is just “one component of Ontario’s plan.”
“This is why over $300 million was dedicated for more staffing to allow for greater distancing, in addition to $600 million in investments and 70,000 HEPA units and other ventilation devices to further improve air ventilation within classrooms.” Caitlin Clark said in an email to CTV News Toronto.
With files from Sean Davidson and CP24's Reshmi Nair