Students and teachers at one Winnipeg school are dealing with a major space crunch.
Belmont School, a French-immersion school in the Seven Oaks division, was built for 150 students but is now holding 320.
The school was supposed to get two new portable classrooms this year, but delays in construction have left the school using its library as an extra classroom.
“What it looks like is desks where there used to be tables and chairs for students to enjoy books,” said school principal Michelle Jean-Paul.
The library is also being used as a computer lab, leaving little room for the Grade 3 students attending class in the space. Students don’t have any place to put their belongings when they arrive in class.
“We have backpacks piled in the corners, so it’s quite the cramped space,” said Jean-Paul.
Piles of jackets and backpacks sit next to crammed boxes full of teachers’ files.
The school houses kindergarten to Grade 5 students, with 40 kids bused in from other areas.
The school is also struggling for other resources.
“We have 320 students in a school that used to house half that number and no additional washroom facilities,” explained Jean-Paul. Children have to go in small groups at different times before recess and lunch.
Student Marissa Jensen said those space constraints extend outside of the school as well.
“Our school field is so crowded, and it’s not big enough for us,” she said. “Grade 5s are tripping over the kindergartens.”
Jean-Paul said she is concerned about the effect the cramped quarters will have on learning.
“In early years, teachers really strive to create warm, inviting classrooms, with student work displayed on the walls. A library really doesn’t have that,” she said. “It does impact the culture, the community, a sense of community within a building when you are feeling cramped in the space that you’re in.”
The two new portable classrooms are expected to be finished by the end of October or in November, but they won’t solve the school’s problems.
New regulations limiting class sizes to 20 students are expected to be introduced by the provincial government soon, and the school isn’t sure how they’ll find the space.
Provincial officials said they’re working with the school division to mitigate space concerns.
“Schools, you know, they’re not built overnight,” said Manitoba’s Minister of Education, Nancy Allan. “We know that we are building schools in school divisions where there are increasing populations.”
In the mean time, students and teachers at Belmont School are doing the best they can with limited resources.