Data won’t tell us how crowded Alberta’s schools are anymore — so we went asking
Alberta does not require school boards to report class sizes, though the professional association for the teachers of Alberta says it has heard from its members that many urban jurisdictions are seeing massive growth in class sizes right now.
In 2019, the provincial government ended a practice of publicly reporting how many students were in each class at each public, charter and separate school in the province.
Calgary parent Misty Russell has two kids, aged six and eight, who attend school in the southeast. For her, the biggest concern she has about class sizes involves the limited amount of attention a teacher is able to provide.
“When there’s so many [more] kids-to-teacher ratio, the kids don’t necessarily get the things that they need, right?” she said.
One Calgary elementary school teacher says these are the worst conditions she’s ever seen at work. As of right now, her classes this year will have 35 students in them — the biggest size of her career.
Edmonton Public Schools says it is experiencing significant enrolment growth and increased utilization of schools, with around 5,000 more students expected, bringing its student population to more than 114,000. That will put utilization around 85 per cent across the division. Over the last 10 years, the division’s utilization rate has risen 14 per cent from 68 per cent to 82 per cent.
—CBC News, Joel Dryden, Nathan Godfrey, Carla Turner, Sept. 6
Thousands of Calgary Catholic School District students head back to class
With Calgary’s population growing rapidly, so too is student enrolment.
The CCSD saw an increase of 2,154 in enrolment for the 2022–23 school compared to the prior school year, well above the district’s prediction of 1,400 new students.
CCSD superintendent Bryan Szumlas says the Catholic school board is increasing its teaching staff to deal with the influx.
“We had to replace about 150 teachers that retired in the spring, and then, as we go forward here into the fall, we’re looking at hiring approximately … just under 100 teachers as we go forward.”
The increased enrolment brought the average school utilization rate up to 84.26 per cent, which is still just below the provincial benchmark of 85 per cent.
Tuesday also marks back-to-school for Rocky View Schools (RVS), which has recently seen some of the most significant jumps in student enrolment.
—CTV News, Kevin Green, Sept. 5
‘Significant’ hiring taking place at schools: minister; Alberta working to fill gaps amid population surge, Nicolaides says
As Alberta kids enter K–12 classrooms facing unprecedented growth, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says the government is doing its best to accommodate the surge in enrolment.
“We’re starting to see some significant new hiring happen across the province,” said Nicolaides, who added that other provinces are experiencing difficulty filling education positions.
Edmonton Catholic Schools spokesperson Christine Meadows told Postmedia in an email that preliminary estimates put its enrolment at more than 47,000 students — about 2,000 more than this time last year, or more than four per cent — and new schools are “urgently needed.”
Edmonton Public Schools expects to have more than 114,000 students — approximately 5,000, or about four per cent — more than last year. Its operating budget of $1.2 billion last year has increased to approximately $1.3 billion this year.
When asked what he believes an appropriate class size might be, Nicolaides said the government is focused on getting staffing levels up to snuff and making sure school boards have the cash they need.
—Edmonton Journal, Lisa Johnson, Sept. 7
Fall hiring blitz results in addition of nearly 600 new teachers to Calgary public schools
Public school officials have completed a fall hiring blitz with the addition of nearly 600 new teachers, with expectations that some temporary vacancies may still have to be filled throughout the year from the substitute roster.
“To date, we have placed teachers in all continuous and probationary teaching positions,” said Joanne Anderson, spokeswoman for the Calgary Board of Education.
Anderson confirmed that CBE budgeted for 774 additional staff hires throughout the system, totalling 587 teachers and 187 “non-teaching staff,” most of which are educational assistants who support teachers in classrooms with complex learners.
CBE now has 25 schools “at capacity,” meaning they are full and can’t take in more students. Those who arrive in the community midway through the school year are sent elsewhere to “overflow” schools with lower capacity.
Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides has admitted Alberta is seeing unprecedented levels of population growth and says he is working closely with the premier to specifically expand schools in growing communities.
—Calgary Herald, Eva Ferguson, Oct. 11
Overcrowded schools see kids sharing desks, learning in hallways
As the reality of unprecedented enrolment growth hits schools this month, students and teachers are facing overcrowded classrooms and learning spaces spilling into hallways, libraries, gyms and staff rooms.
The province has argued it is funding for growth, even as more than 7,000 new students arrive at Calgary’s public schools this fall, on top of last year’s 5,000.
“Teachers are seeing class sizes in the high 30s, sometimes even the low 40s, across all grades. And this is very problematic, with more of these students arriving with complex needs, many having to learn English as a second language,” said Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
“After four years of the UCP, Alberta’s per-student funding has gone from the third highest in the country to the lowest. That says a lot about how much they value our kids,” NDP education critic Rakhi Pancholi said.
“And Alberta teachers report the largest increase in class sizes in the country.”
—Calgary Herald, Eva Ferguson, Sept. 16
Red Deer public and Catholic divisions see enrolment increase
Student enrolment at Red Deer Public Schools was up 2.4 per cent from last year with 11,424 students registered in the division. That’s an increase of 270 students from last school year.
Student enrolment increases were seen across elementary (55) and middle (110) and high (160) school levels throughout the division, with the biggest school increases at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School (62), Eastview Middle School (43) and Central Middle School (39).
Red Deer Public also welcomed 101 tuition paying international students this fall, with 30 international students expected to arrive in the New Year. This year, the top countries students are from include Brazil, Belgium, Spain and Germany.
Overall, the Catholic school division has 325 more students with 10,723 enrolled for the 2023–24 school year, up from 10,398 in 2022–23.
—Red Deer Advocate, Susan Zielinski, Oct. 3
Foothills School Division enrollment down a bit
The Foothills School Division has fewer students this year than last year.
Assistant Superintendent Drew Chipman said they were expecting more students at the Foothills Composite High School in Okotoks.
Chipman says Foothills Comp is often full so some students may have looked elsewhere.
“So, a little bit of a decrease from last year, that’s probably due to the fact that we were expecting more students at Foothills Composite High School. I think we can probably attribute it to the fact that school is quite full, so people look at other options.”
However, he says there are still a lot of students back in class.
“From K to 12 we have 8,064 students with about another 72 in junior kindergarten, which is a voluntary program which we’ve been running for a number of years.”
—Okotoks Online, Kevin Wallace, Oct. 16