"To put 30 kids in a room, having them one metre apart gives them no room to move around ... There’s no physical distancing."
Doug Ford’s back-to-school plan is pushing Ontario school boards to consolidate smaller classes, something the province’s teachers are warning could lead to some situations where one classroom is shared by “30 or more students.”
“School boards are required to fill class sizes based on the education funding formula, while at the same time providing a program for students who have chosen not to attend school in person,” Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association President Liz Stuart explained to PressProgress.
“While specifics will vary from board to board,” Stuart said “it is inevitable that the Ford government’s failure to introduce adequate standards and funding to ensure physical distancing will lead to classes being collapsed and combined”
“There may even be situations where combined classes of 30 or more students are learning next to empty classrooms.”
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Executive Officer Malini Leahy said some boards that have been designated by the province will have cohorts of only 15 students per class in place — but other boards have caps based on what is already written into their collective agreements.
“In non-designated boards, there’s no guarantee,” Leahy told PressProgress. “There’s one board that allows up to 35 kids, or you could have up to 30 kids sitting in a classroom.“
Leahy noted that “social distancing is problematic when you have 30 students in classrooms, especially when you don’t have classrooms that were meant to have 30 students,” and added that the OSSTF is pressing Ford’s government for “basic health and safety measures to protect students and our members.”
Algoma District School Board, which serves students in Sault Ste. Marie, Elliot Lake and the surrounding region, is one of Ontario’s non-designated boards.
According to local news reports, Algoma’s schools are “required to show they have managed classes as close to the funded average class size as possible.” More recently, it was reported the board is collapsing classes in order to limit direct and indirect contact to 100 students.
OSSTF District 2 bargaining unit president John Wells told PressProgress, classes vary by school enrollment and there are multiple caps in place — but “in our larger schools, in high schools like Superior Heights in Sault St Marie, we can expect class sizes of up to 30.”
“To put 30 kids in a room, having them one metre apart gives them no room to move around,” he said. “There’s no physical distancing.”
Neither Ontario’s Ministry of Education nor the Algoma District School Board responded to requests for comment from PressProgress.