Saskatchewan

70 Sask. schools exceeding capacity, majority in Regina and Saskatoon

According to the Ministry of Education 70 schools in the province are at more than 100 per cent capacity and 20 schools are past 120 per cent capacity.

NDP calls for more investment in education capital

École Harbour Landing School and neighbouring St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic School in Regina are among 70 schools in the province that are over capacity. (CBC)

According to the Ministry of Education, 70 schools in Saskatchewan are at more than 100 per cent capacity and 20 schools are past 120 per cent capacity.

Of the 70 over-capacity schools, 21 are in Regina and 18 are in Saskatoon.

NDP education critic Carla Beck said those full schools need money for portables and failing that, an investment in a new building for those growing communities.

"We also need to ensure that we provide services and facilities that meet that growth," Beck said.

She said that of the 20 schools at more than 120 per cent capacity, only 12 received money for portables.

"That means that the additional eight didn't receive them and they'll just have to live with it, with the overcrowded classrooms for the next year," Beck said.

Minister of Education Gord Wyant stood by the government's record on capital investment.

"I think our capital record speaks for itself over the last number of years. [A] 441 per cent increase, over 69 new and renovated schools, which I think demonstrates the government's commitment."

Capital spending in K to 12 education, including money for the construction of new schools, increased $20 million in the 2019 budget from the previous last year.

Among those over-capacity schools are brand new Regina joint-use schools École Harbour Landing and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic School in Regina's Harbour Landing neighbourhood.

The Regina Public School Board's request for a new elementary school in Harbour Landing is among the province's Top 10 Major Capital Requests of 2019-20.

"We heard previously concerns about the Harbour Landing School, for example, that is likely to be up to 200 percent capacity within five years. The pressures exist in school systems and they haven't kept pace with growth," Beck said.

Two Saskatoon high schools are over capacity: Centennial Collegiate and Holy Cross High School. 

The ministry said the calculation for determining capacity is complex and does not have a comparison for before and after the 18 joint-use schools were built because a new formula was created in 2018.

Wyant said 120 per cent capacity is the threshold the province uses when looking at a new school in a given community.

Class size questions

The Ontario government recently announced it was increasing its maximum class size.

Ontario's average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will rise to 28, up from the current average of 22.

"By increasing class sizes in high school, we're preparing them for the reality of post-secondary as well as the world of work," said Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson.

The Sask. NDP asked on Thursday if this was a path the province would take. Wyant said the province has no plans to follow suit.

NDP education critic Carla Beck says the government needs to invest more in education to help ease capacity issues. (Matt Howard/CBC)

The ministry of education provided a breakdown of average class size in Saskatchewan:

For 2018-19, the average class size in the aggregate of the 23 school divisions is 17.8 students compared to 21.1 students for the Regina and Saskatoon divisions.  

For 2017-18, the average class size was 17.9 in the divisions outside Regina and Saskatoon and 21.0 in the Regina and Saskatoon divisions.

"The calculations are determined by dividing September 30 enrolment figures by Full Time Equivalent (FTE) educator assignments. FTE educator assignments include regular teaching, student support services teaching and English as an Additional language teaching," said a ministry spokesperson.

Beck said she wants to know the number of students in front of a teacher. She said that type of calculation is done in other provinces.

"We know the government includes anyone in a school with a teaching certificate in those ratios. That might be an [educational psychologist] who has a teaching degree but doesn't work in the classroom. That includes principals and vice principals regardless of whether they actually are in the classroom," Beck said.

Wyant said he would speak to ministry officials to make sure their tracking is "proper".

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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