Final preparations are being made for the return of school across the province, and in Chatham-Kent, it appears the two big school boards have been able to keep class sizes small.
“For example, there were 36 Grade 2’s in two classes of 18, and 18 of them chose to be here. We didn’t create two classes of nine, we kept a class of 18 and moved the second teacher into the virtual school,” John Howitt, Lambton-Kent District School Board director of education, said.
The Lambton-Kent board has seen average class sizes drop to 18 students in Grades 1 through 3.
Twenty-two in Grades 4 through 8 and 20 system-wide.
The St. Clair Catholic District School Board has seen a similar trend with average class sizes in kindergarten down to 21.
The primary grades down to an average of 18 students, and 22 in Grades 4 through 8.
“We’ve tried very hard not to disrupt our classrooms on a go-forward, so that as students maybe change and come back to the face-to-face model their classrooms will be there,” St. Clair Catholic District School Board director of education Deb Crawford told CTV News.
That unknown, if virtual learners return to in-person classes or if more students opt for e-education, has seen the boards get three different dates in October, January, and March to make the necessary adjustments.
“If 10 of those Grade 2’s that I described earlier all want to come back into face-to-face learning, I don’t think the parents in that Grade 2 class in the face-to-face would be very happy to move from 18 to 28 students,” said Howitt.
So far, 25 new teachers have been hired at the Lambton-Kent board and 22 new hires at the St. Clair board to manage both streams of learning.
And the hope is the measures in place will be enough to avoid widespread outbreaks if a positive COVID-19 case is recorded.
“That’s exactly why there has been such effort to divide the students into cohorts so that whole schools don’t have to be isolated,” said Chatham-Kent medical officer of health Dr. David Colby. “But if there is an outbreak where you have multiple cases in a school, that might be necessary.”
As for the online learning component, Crawford says they’re trying to ensure every student has the appropriate technology to participate, but says boards are actually running into problems trying to buy equipment.
She points to supply chain issues for the difficult and notes the board is keeping on top of it.