Calgary school boards hire more teachers with federal funding



a sign on the side of a road: St. Joan of Arc School in southwest Calgary


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St. Joan of Arc School in southwest Calgary

Some Calgary parents are hoping that federal money designed to help schools deal with the COVID-19 pandemic will help reduce class sizes.

Steve McSween’s son is in Grade 4 at St. Joan of Arc School in southwest Calgary. He said his son’s class went from 20 to 30 kids this week, making him second guess his decision not to join the online learning option.

“We are frustrated,” said McSween on Saturday.

“We made a decision based on one set of criteria and now it’s changed and we are stuck where we are. I think the schools and the district are trying to do everything they can. We recognize it’s tough with the funding model but it would be nice if they are changing the class sizes that they would give the parents another chance to reconsider their options.”

The Calgary Catholic School District said all of its schools are in the process of finalizing enrolment numbers, and class sizes are still fluctuating.

A district spokesperson said that’s because registration for the online learning option closed on Sept. 4 and they are now working to process nearly 6,000 students and assign teachers accordingly.

All class sizes at St. Joan of Arc are being reviewed and the district hopes to have finalized enrolment numbers early next week. But it looks like some help is on the way.

Read more: Alberta school authorities will see some federal COVID-19 funding in September: LaGrange

In a message sent to Catholic school parents on Friday, superintendent Bryan Szumlas said the district will receive $20.5 million in federal funds to help reduce the risk of COVID-19.

He said over the next few days, 75 additional teachers are being deployed in the system to help reduce class sizes.

“After that, the district will be allocating additional support staff to help in larger classrooms, with the goal to have the supports in place before the end of September,” Szumlas said in an email.

Szumlas said the CCSD Board of Trustees approved that the money is to be spent on additional teachers, support staff, caretaking, guest teachers and PPE expenses.

Read more: Coronavirus: Parents, students concerned with crowding in Calgary school common areas

The Calgary Board of Education has just received its first payment of $22.24 million out of the anticipated total of $44 million.

A statement from the CBE said the money will go to a number of areas to support its COVID-19 response, “including hiring 150 additional certificated staff to augment regular school staffing levels to support the delivery of the hub online learning option.”

The board is also in the process of hiring approximately 240 additional cleaning staff.

Read more: Coronavirus: What schools in Alberta have COVID-19 outbreaks

But parents know there is no guarantee the new teachers will go to their schools.

“Our board has $20.5 million from the federal government and they are adding 75 more teachers. Seventy-five teachers sounds like a lot but spread over the number of schools we have, it’s not an awful lot,” McSween said.

“I think they are trying but I think they have to dig deeper and find perhaps other areas to cut so we can have more teachers and perhaps less administration or less something else.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Canada to give provinces $2B to ensure kids can go back to school in fall

In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $2 billion for schools across the country.

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