children playing

Kindergarten classes squeezed for space

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Rushowy, Kristin
Publication Date: 
17 Aug 2011



Ontario's elementary teachers will be pushing for proper-sized classrooms for kindergarten students, saying too many classes are now squeezed into regular rooms that don't have enough space.

In a resolution approved at its annual meeting, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is asking the province to "establish appropriate minimum square footage requirements for full-day kindergarten classrooms."

Typically, kindergarten classrooms are between 1,050 and 1,250 sq. ft. and have traditionally had a washroom, sink and separate entrance as well as storage space.

Some schools, facing a space crunch to accommodate full-day kindergarten, have simply put the youngsters in regular classrooms, which are roughly 700 to 800 sq. ft.

But with full-day classes larger than half-day - full-day programs are taught by a teacher and early childhood educator, and can be an average of 26 students, compared to a cap of 20 for a half-day program led by teacher only - it's time some standards were set, said Elizabeth Kettle of the Ottawa-Carleton teachers' union local, which proposed the resolution.

"It's a play-based program, and you want children to engage in active learning," said the kindergarten teacher. But in a cramped regular classroom, "it's just not possible."

Shan Cardinali, a full-day kindergarten teacher with the Peel District School Board, said classrooms need one or two carpeted areas, and space for a sand table, water table, sensory bin, reading area, art and craft table, dramatic area for building blocks/construction - and more.

While her classroom wasn't as large as a traditional kindergarten room, she said it made a huge difference to have a washroom, low sink and high sink, and low countertops.

She and Thunder-Bay area teacher Corinne Scarfo said teachers with little space will have a sand table out, and then swap it for a water table, but not have both because of space restrictions.

"They sacrifice part of the program so they can fit everything in," Cardinali said.

Kettle said it's not uncommon for the full-day teacher and early childhood educator to split the class into two, and take one group of students to the gym, library or outside to give the other group space in the classroom.

All three teachers, however, stressed the importance of the full-day program; Kettle said she has noticed "huge gains" in students' learning with the longer day.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said the "vast majority" of kindergarten rooms is larger and that with two adults in the room, each can run activities with smaller groups of children.

The ministry has spent more than $500 million for renovations for the first three years of full-day, and $10,000 per new full-day classroom for equipment.

-reprinted from the Toronto Star