Horwath calls on Ford government to cut class sizes to 15 during Lambton County stop
A Brights Grove, Ont. mother is concerned about her youngest child entering a class of 30 kindergarten kids next month.
"Last year we have three kindergarten classes in our school and this year we're due to only have two, so all of those kids who were in the three classes are going to be combined into two classes," says Sacha Coutu, a mother of four- and 10-year-old children, the youngest with developmental delays and a heart condition.
"It makes it a lot more kids in a class, especially when they're unmasked. We know that little ones are unable to understand distancing, especially children like my daughter with her developmental challenges"
Coutu was standing alongside NDP Oppostion Leader Andrea Horwath who made a stop in Lambton County to speak about smaller class sizes.
"Since the beginning of COVID-19 we've been asking the Ford government to reduce class sizes to 15," says Horwath. "We’re just urging Doug Ford to step up to the plate. You can’t roll the dice on our kids' education, on our kids' well-being and their academic health. It’s got to be a safe September.”
Howarth says it's possible class sizes could be larger, if the room allows for children to be spaced out.
"It's really about the principle of keeping kids distanced," says Horwath. "You're certainly not going to be doing that with 30. Some classrooms might be able to accommodate to distancing with a couple of more kids than 15...20 perhaps if the classroom provides it."
The province recently revealed its back to school plan, "We have announced $380 million back in May of specific COVID-19 resources, specifically for staffing to enable more hiring [for the 2021-22 school year]," said Stephen Lecce, Ontario's education minister.
"Last year, 7,000 additional staff were hired, custodians and educators and (educational assistants) to support distancing. In addition to hand hygiene, in addition to improved ventilation, in addition to a strict screening regime before children enter schools and likewise access to a low-barrier testing, all of which is the basis for our plan and today to further improve safety and to build that confidence that schools can and will be safe this September, we're announcing an additional $25 million to literally deliver tens of thousands of HEPA units. Now, 70,000 standalone HEPA units within classrooms and learning spaces across Ontario, that is going to make a difference as we look forward."
Lecce also announced additonal funding for children's mental health supports and early reading interventions.
The Ontario Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) says 15-20 students fits the ideal class room size, and also would mean that a cohort could be a reality.
"We appreciate the position Andrea has taken, and it echoes the position that ETFO has for some time on both the teaching and learning advantage of smaller class size, and could help with containment of the spread of COVID," says Craig Smith, president of ETFO's Thames Valley Local.
Cutting classes to 15 students would also require more teachers, which Smith feels would be available if necessary.
"There are a number of teachers who are certified who couldn't find work, and they could be called upon," says Smith.
"I know we have certified teachers from other provinces coming here so they could be certified to be deployed."
Neither Smith nor Horwath believe the Ford government will act on their request, as they say education funding is being cut.
"At a time when we need more investments in our schools when we need more mental health and one-on-one support for our kids, this government has cut our education budget in our province for this year by $800 million," says Horwath.
Smith says the funding reduction doesn't seem to indicate they'll be cutting class size and investing in teachers.
"The reality is we are weeks way from school opening and we are still talking about ventilation, HEPA filters, masking, PPE and vaccination so there are more immediate measures we need to focus on to make sure schools can stay open with as few disruptions as possible."
Horwath says she will be making other stops in Southwestern Ontario in the coming days to "listen to people."
London Top Stories