Nfld. & Labrador

French classes cut as schools combine grades, says teachers union

With more than 2,000 students in Newfoundland and Labrador headed to multi-grade classrooms this September, the teachers union is predicting chaos and confusion.
The potential shutdown of schools across Canada would leave parents scrambling for childcare, all the while worrying about the academic impact it will have on their children. (Robert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images)

With more than 2,000 students in Newfoundland and Labrador headed to multi-grade classrooms this September, the teachers union says elementary French programs are also in the line of fire. 

"This is going to be chaotic for schools," said the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association, Jim Dinn on Thursday.

Schools were told about cuts to their teacher allocations last week, and are now deciding what to eliminate. 

In addition to combined classrooms, Dinn said there will be cuts to intensive core French program in Grade 6.

"The options for doing such things as intensive core French have been removed, so what we're seeing in the education system is a reduction of educational opportunities, not an addition to them," he told CBC's Here and Now on Thursday.

The NLTA sent a memo to all teachers on Wednesday with what it knows about the move so far, but said the government has not answered many of its questions about multi-grading. 

It's going to create unnecessary confusion for parents, for administrators, and for teachers alike. It's as simple as that," said Dinn. 

"I don't think they've given this any forethought or consideration." 

'Anger, frustration, fear'

Dinn said 135 classrooms in 70 schools — as many as 2,400 elementary school students — will be in multi-grade classrooms in September.

He said the government will combine grades when the number of students in one grade exceeds the class cap of 29 and there are "leftover" students.

NLTA President Jim Dinn says there will be a lot of angry parents in Newfoundland and Labrador come September. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

He said it's not clear how students will be picked for a multi-grade class or how special needs children will be affected, and he said teachers need training on how to deliver the curriculum to more than one grade at a time.

"Anger, frustration, fear, anxiety," said Dinn.

"I've got emails from teachers who are frightened for the students as to what this will mean for them, and their ability to help those students." 

With files from Carolyn Stokes