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Teachers union says class sizes growing despite online learning options

CALGARY (CityNews) – Parents betting on online classes clearing up space in classrooms may be wrong.

A teachers union claims staff are being pulled into virtual education and it’s affecting class sizes.

“A lot of parents were kind of banking on if some kids are going to the hub then that might leave some (room) but then we didn’t consider it means that they are going to have to reallocate some teachers to hub learning as well,” said Carla Davidson, Founder, Project Safe September.

The group said class sizes will fluctuate until the last minute as parents can still op-out of the Calgary Board of Education’s HUB Learning until Sept. 1.

However, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) claims class sizes are still growing.

“I’m hearing stories from teachers where they had X amount students not show up in their class roster and so the school district is then opted to instead of having three classes in a grade, might just put them into two and that’s increasing the class sizes,” said ATA President Jason Schilling.

RELATED: Parents to protest back-to-school plan across Alberta

A statement from Alberta Education says it hasn’t heard from school divisions about reducing the number of teachers due to an increase in students opting for distance learning.

“If a school division chooses to reduce their staffing levels, they are doing this despite receiving an increase in funding from Alberta’s government for the upcoming school year.”

Both groups are pushing for more provincial dollars as Alberta starts a new funding model, and school boards say they’re short on cash as enrolment grows and they restart during a pandemic.

The Calgary Board of Education tells CityNews it’s still working through staffing decisions for hub online learning and in-class learning.

Edmonton Public Schools said over 63,000 students, or about 70 per cent, are returning to in-person classes, but it’s still working on class sizes and staffing levels.

Some parents planning for fall said they’ll have to make some last-minute decisions.

“There’s no one decision here that’s going to work for everybody,” said Davidson. “There’s not enough information to make a good well-reasoned decision. So it’s very, very stressful.”