More school construction and higher per pupil funding would help reduce class sizes, say Red Deer public and Catholic school jurisdictions.
A review of class sizes by Red Deer Public Schools showed the average class size in kindergarten to Grade 3 was 20, while the provincial target is 17 students. Grade 4 to 6 classes averaged 25 pupils and the target is 23. Grades 7 to 9 classes average 27 students, missing the target of 25.
Only Grade 1o to 12 classes are better than the target of 20 students, with an average of 17.
Red Deer public superintendent Stu Henry said averages have been consistently larger by a few students for a couple of years.
He said schools receive funding to address class size, but it is minimal compared to per pupil grant funding, which has not increased for seven years.
“When we are faced with a zero per cent budget increase, which we’ve seen for a number of years now, that actually creates a shortfall of $500,000 for us.
“So every year, we’re trying to cut another $500,000, because we’ve not seen those increases year after year,” Henry said.
“As our costs are going up, and we’re not seeing that increase to the grant, obviously it’s a little bit harder to do the things we want to do.”
Public school board chair Bev Manning said without a per pupil grant increase, the district has to take money from other places to address community priorities such as mental health workers in schools.
She said when a jurisdiction gets more per pupil funding because of enrolment growth, the provincial government calls it a funding increase.
“But it’s not a percentage increase for us. We have more students we have to serve. I don’t look at that as an increase in funding,” Manning said.
Catholic superintendent Paul Mason said the division has been relatively successful in achieving classroom size targets, except for kindergarten to Grade 3.
“Physically, we do not have enough classroom space to accomplish those guidelines,” Mason said.
“By and large, the vast majority of our schools have over 100 per cent utilization currently. So all of our schools are feeling the pinch of needing extra space.”
Neither the public nor Catholic jurisdictions have heard of any potential funding increase in the future.
“All school divisions, ours as well, would be appreciative of receiving additional funding to address class size pressure points. We continue to advocate with government in that regard, and we hope to hear good news with the spring budget,” Mason said.