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Premier promises smaller classes

Lori Penner
Victoria Braun and Robin Martens share the teaching duties for this fresh crop of Grade 3 students at Elmwood School in Altona. Typical class sizes at the 13 classroom school don't exceed 20 students per class.

Victoria Braun and Robin Martens share the teaching duties for this fresh crop of Grade 3 students at Elmwood School in Altona. Typical class sizes at the 13 classroom school don't exceed 20 students per class.

Early year's classes will be smaller by next fall if Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has his way.

Selinger has promised to limit all kindergarten to Grade 3 classes to a maximum of 20 students. "It's based on the research we've seen that smaller class sizes really allow more attention for the students at a time when they're just getting their learning patterns established," he said. "It gives the teacher the ability to really tune in to the needs of the students ... and get them off to a very strong start in the education system."

The plan to cap class sizes will add an estimated 240 teaching positions over five years, at a cost of $20 million annually.

The NDP is committing $85 million to make necessary classroom and school expansions over the next five years.

About 50 per cent of Manitoba classrooms have more than 20 students and it's not uncommon to have 30 or 32 children in a class.

Border Land School Division superintendent Krista Curry says they've always strived to keep early years classes small. The average student to professional staff ratio in BLSD is 1 to 14. "I just hope the province is willing to back up their promises without putting extra strain on the system."

And while Curry agrees that more one-on-one time is vital for learning, she says there are several other things that rank just as high.

"Composition is as important as size," she says. "The number of high needs students in a classroom always has to be taken into consideration."

Curry believes that the quality of the teacher also plays a huge role. "We tend to spend more of our resources on quality teachers and improving our teaching practices," she says. "The size of your class isn't nearly as important as the teacher who is leading it."