OPINION: Why are the provinces afraid of reducing classroom sizes for the pandemic?

Provinces don’t want to reduce classroom sizes because parents will not be able to unsee advantages.

I find it curious how provincial governments in this country are going “above and beyond” for our schools–seeming to go to great lengths to keep our children safe.

Big bucks are being spent on masks, ventilation systems, hand sanitizers, special signage, extra school buses… except on the thing that you would think would make the biggest difference of all: reducing class sizes.

It would make perfect sense, wouldn’t it?

After six months of being ordered and even mandated to social distance, to maintain a distance of six feet or two metres from others, why are school children—in one of the most contagious institutions in our society—not going to be expected to do so?

When I would occasionally give one of my art workshops in schools in BC and Alberta as a freelancer, I discovered early on that school classrooms are packed like sardine cans.

Many of my most fun and motivating art projects, such as painting a mural or making sculptures with wood, I found I could not do simply because there were too many bodies and desks in the room. It seems the only thing that would work is something the kids could do at their desks with their noses down. There was no room for movement exercises, dramatic interpretation or vigorous learning games that would supercharge students’ enthusiasm and awareness for an art concept.

If the current classroom size standards are to be maintained during the pandemic, no one would be six feet apart all the time, if ever. If a child gets up to sharpen a pencil or go to the bathroom, squeezing past two entire rows of kids and coughing or sneezing on the way, he or she is going to be a super spreader.

So why are provincial governments being such Nervous Nellies about reducing classroom sizes for the pandemic? The reason, as far as I’m concerned, is that they don’t want parents to start to like smaller classroom sizes! Parents will start to see the immediate tangible benefits and, they might demand that the change be made permanent. They are putting children and consequently, the general population at risk to protect the future bottom line.

Imagine your kids coming home saying they had fun at school today and that they are looking forward to going to school tomorrow? Imagine that the conversation with your kids around the supper table is about what they learned that day about science or math or history, instead of how so-and-so caused trouble in class and made the teacher furious? Those parents who had become accustomed to getting calls from the principal about their child’s disruptive behaviour in class might find that that contact number has gone mysteriously silent. Parents might be surprised that their child is bringing home a report card with As and Bs when they used to get Cs and Ds.

The proof will be in the pudding! Provinces do not want to reduce classroom sizes because parents will not be able to “unsee” the advantages. When everything returns to “normal” after the pandemic, they would not be able to help but notice the sudden drop in the quality of their children’s education and their children’s attitude to school.

Debra Lynn has a BFA in art and design from the University of Alberta and an MA in art education from Concordia University in Montreal. She is the instructor and coordinator of the “Little Picassos,” “Paint Club” and “Adventures in Art” art programs for kids in Port McNeill

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