Her school year began with a kindergarten class of 30, which went down to 24 and has now settled at 26.
Like other classrooms across the province, Melissa Bowman’s students are a diverse group — some started school as young as age 3, others are new Canadians learning to speak English, a few struggle with behaviour issues or have special needs.
So when the full-day kindergarten class hit the low of 24, Bowman and the early childhood educator she works alongside “just felt like we could breathe again a little bit.”
“Having the lesser numbers makes a difference — with 30 students in the room, it becomes very difficult to be giving them the amount of time they deserve,” said Bowman, who has taught for 11 years. “We’ve had quite a few kids away sick, and we were around 20 one day, and both my teacher partner and I said ‘this is what this program was written for.’
“We felt we could talk to everybody and our inquiry lessons went well and no one was fighting for our attention and no one was fighting for space.”
The Ontario government has just launched consultations with teacher and support staff unions, as well as trustee associations, to talk about changes to class sizes, full-day kindergarten as well as hiring practices as it works to reduce a $14.5 billion deficit.