NDP pitches Manitoba government on capping class sizes at 15 students, hiring more teachers during pandemic

By | July 28, 2020

The Manitoba New Democrats are calling on the province to cap class sizes at 15 students as the government prepares to resume learning this fall during a global pandemic.

Though class sizes would shrink under this plan, the Official Opposition is still proposing every student be taught in a classroom.

To do so, the government should spend $260 million to hire more teachers and create more classrooms, among other needs, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said. Without it, classrooms would be overcrowded and teachers overworked, he said.

“The Pallister government has so far failed to lay out a plan that ensures we have enough teachers and EAs to keep classrooms small so children can physically distance and get the one-on-one attention they deserve,” he said in a news release Tuesday. 

The NDP made its pitch in advance of the Progressive Conservative government, which is expected to unveil Manitoba’s plan for fall learning later this week.

The government has said it would settle on one of three scenarios: a full return to class; a return to school with distancing, which would prioritize in-class learning for kindergarten to Grade 8; or a limited reopening with online and some small-group in-person learning. 

School reopenings dictated by COVID-19

In June, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the decision would take into account the COVID-19 situation at the time. 

Students began learning remotely in March when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height locally. Some small-group instruction was permitted in June, before summer break. 

Kinew said Tuesday that capping class sizes at 15 students would ensure students could learn safely in a classroom environment. 

He’s calling on the province to spend $50 million to hire 400 extra teachers to support students spread across more classrooms.

The NDP is also proposing $80 million to rent or build temporary and permanent classroom spaces. It suggests libraries, community halls, conference venues and vacant business spaces become classrooms in the short-term.

The plan also proposes $60 million to ramp up cleaning services, ranging from the purchasing of personal protective equipment to hiring additional custodial staff.

The party would tie $20 million to hiring social workers and psychologists, along with the support staff laid off when school divisions were ordered to cut non-essential spending. 

A further $50 million would be spent on purchasing and renting more buses, as well as helping families with limited transportation options.

Goertzen previously said the government would “rely heavily” on parents bringing their children to school beginning this fall.

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