Posted on Aug 24, 2020


EDMONTON -- Families of students heading into overcrowded classes during a pandemic are being faced with a terrible choice, between education and safety.

Dennis and Linda Coulthard’s granddaughter is headed into a half-day Kindergarten class of 30, with another 30 students using the class in the afternoon.

“Even in normal times, that would be ridiculous, but today, during a pandemic, it’s total insanity,” said Linda Coulthard, a retired teacher. “Even a part-time teacher could let them split them into three classes of 20. One full-time teacher would get you to classes of 15. But the government is not providing funds to schools for reasonable classes. It’s totally ludicrous.”

Coulthard wrote to Premier Jason Kenney and Minister Adriana LaGrange to share how this affected her family.

“Our granddaughter has a younger sister at home, who had a tough start in life and spent several months at the Stollery, and we don’t want to put her at risk by bringing something home. I’m absolutely furious,” Coulthard said.

“I know that we will see some finger-pointing from the Minister of Education, so let’s be very clear on something,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Education. “This is not the fault of the school principal, or the fault of Edmonton Catholic Schools. They are doing the best they can with the resources that Adriana LaGrange decides to give them. More resources would mean smaller classes … it’s as simple as that.”

Over the weekend, media reported the per-student funding cut that LaGrange has imposed on Alberta schools. According to the CBC, Edmonton Catholic Schools are receiving $152 less per student in 2020 than they did in 2018.

“Adriana LaGrange’s cuts mean we are sending kids into overcrowded classrooms during a pandemic,” said Hoffman. “It’s bad for their education, and it risks the safety of students, families, staff and communities.”

The Opposition has presented the government with a 15-point plan for safe school re-entry, called Safe School, Successful Students. A class-size cap of 15 students is recommendation number one.