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Parents voice concerns over Lecce’s plans to increase class sizes

The health and safety of students and staff is top of mind when it comes to individuals learning in Ontario education system, or at least it should be. That is why parents are concerned over the province’s plan to increase class sizes.

This is particularly the case for parents of students enrolled at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). Claire Moscone-Biafore, a parent of three children within the TCDSB, expressed her great concern over the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) plans to have class sizes return to pre-Covid levels.

She is not alone in her frustration with the MOE’s plans to reorganize classes for “funding purposes”. Julie Altomare-DiNunzio, President of Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT), told the Corriere: “Larger class sizes do not help anyone, especially given then fact we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic”.

According to the Education Act, class sizes for junior and senior kindergarten are capped at 29 students. For Grades 4-8, the maximum size limit is set at 31. Altomare-DiNunzio explained that last year, the TCDSB was able to use funds provided by both Federal and Provincial governments with TCDSB reserve funds to help lower some class sizes to 15-20 pupils.

“This was especially important in the primary grades (1-3) where the class cap was 23. But, in most schools, that was reduced to about 15 in hot spot areas where Covid-19 cases were higher and students opted for virtual learning”, she said.

There are 164 Catholic elementary schools within the TCDSB. According to Altomare-DiNunzio, mostly all of these schools will be impacted by the reorganization and the return to larger class sizes. “Now is not the time to be making those changes, especially since the majority of students are not vaccinated”, she added.

Parents and educators continue to argue that it is almost impossible to physically distance in class rooms with large numbers of students. Afterall, distancing is one of the key recommendations by Ontario’s medical experts to minimize the spread of Covid-19, in addition to universal masking and handwashing.

The Province has said they have invested over $300 million in funding to allow for more staffing and greater distancing. This is in addition to the $600 million investments to address better ventilation in classrooms and schools. Critics argue the Government has not taken all the necessary measures nor provided the appropriate funds this year to ensure safe learning spaces for students.

As of October 4, the TCDSB reports 45 schools with active Covid-19 cases for a total of 76 active cases, (69 students, 7 staff). Moscone-Biafore, a therapist by profession, understands, like most parents, the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of children while in class.

She, like many others cannot understand why the MOE would approve the reorganization of students into larger class sizes given the current circumstances and the added risk to their health and welfare.

Communities concerned about the changes happening at the TCDSB and supporters of smaller class sizes have organized coordinated demonstrations at various Catholic schools across the city to take place tomorrow morning.

Neither the Minister of Education, nor the TCDSB responded to our request for comment prior to our going to print.

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