Calgary

Class sizes swell across Calgary as enrolment rises 2,000 students year over year

Enrolment is up by 2,000 students across the Calgary public school system this year, and everyone is feeling it. One Calgary parent says her child's grade 6 class has 38 students. She's worried her daughter will be lost in the mix.

One parent worries classes of 30 or more are not able to give kids what they need

Fiona MacKay, 11, chats with mom Lucyna Pielak after school; MacKay has 38 kids in her class. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Enrolment is up by 2,000 students across the Calgary public school system this year, and everyone is feeling it.

One Calgary parent says her child's Grade 6 class has 38 students. She's worried her daughter will be lost in the mix.

"Everybody likes to be recognized and acknowledged, and it just comes down to the amount of attention these kids can get," Lucyna Pielak told CBC. "I don't think they're going to be able to get enough, the teachers just can't be enough for every kid with that many people."

Pielak said it's frustrating to hear the same story year after year, with few solutions in sight.

"The thing that bugs me is that everybody's pointing fingers. It all comes down to the budget, it comes down to the government — this government, that government. This hasn't changed in years, it's getting worse and worse and worse. I just think whatever they're doing, I know it's a really complex system … but the way they're managing it has to change somehow."

Pielak said she's concerned the system is failing her daughter, Fiona MacKay, 11.

"There's lots of noise, teachers are getting frustrated I think, and it's been harder for me to concentrate," MacKay said after she arrived home from school — where there are 39 students in her Grade 6 French immersion classroom at David Thompson School. 

"It gets really hot in there, and it gets kind of dizzy and it's hard," she said. "There's always people that are talking, like, in a class of 20 kids, if someone whispers no one will hear it. But then if there's a bunch of other people whispering it kind of becomes distracting if the teacher is talking."

Calgary Board of Education enrolment is at 125,000 students, up 2,000 since last year.

"This is an Alberta problem, this is province wide, where our classrooms are oversized mostly because they're underfunded as far as ideal conditions for teachers," said Mario Vergara, president of Calgary Separate School Board, Local 55. "It's up to the provincial government to make sure those classrooms are funded appropriately. It's the provincial funding that has diminished over the years." 

Vergara said teachers do the best they can with the class sizes they're given.

"Teachers will do the best they can. It's up to parents really to take a look at their MLA's, talk to them, those are the people that will make a difference. Talk to the premier and the Minister of Education and really, get the funding that is needed in those classrooms."

Bob Cocking, president of Calgary Public Teachers, ATA Local 38, says there's not enough money to hire teachers to keep up. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Bob Cocking, president of Calgary Public Teachers, ATA Local 38, agreed there's not enough money to hire teachers to keep up.

"Every year, there's always 1,500 to 2,000 new students coming into our schools, and that's always going to be the case — we're a growing city so our schools are trying to keep up with that. We only have 20 high schools. It's just unfortunate that sometimes you're bursting at the seams, so in those cases you're going to have larger class sizes."

The solution doesn't necessarily hinge on the upcoming provincial budget, Cocking said.

"It's almost too late in a sense, all the staffing is done in the spring so May, June we're staffed and to try to create classrooms after the fact, is really difficult," he said.

The provincial budget is expected in late October. 

With files from Terri Trembath

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