Depending on who does the number-crunching, the latest class size figures for Langley schools show the cash-strapped district has managed to maintain minimum acceptable standards or has failed miserably at serving students with disabilities and other special needs.
A report by district director of human resources Barry Bunyan asserts the Langley School District has met provincial ministry of education size limits, while the teachers’ union says the report has confirmed their worst fears about special needs cutbacks.
The report by Bunyan says the average class sizes in the district were 18.81 students for Kindergarten classes; 20.89 in Grades 1-3; 27.66 Grades 4-7; and 26.30 in Grades 8-12.
However, 12 per cent, or roughly one in every 10 classes, exceeds the maximum of 30 students.
In Grade 4 and up, the report notes, teachers have consented to the extra-large classes as required by legislation.
The school principal and superintendent must also approve classes, when they are “of the opinion learning conditions are appropriate” the report states.
The majority of the oversized elementary classes were band music programs, as were the largest classes in secondary school, where some reported more than 34 students.
Langley Teachers’ Association (LTA) president Gail Chaddock-Costello said a closer look at the numbers reveals an “astronomical” number of classes are above the maximum allowable limit of three or more “special needs” students.
The LTA analysis says 2,601 special needs students are in such over-limit classes.
“I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was,” Chaddock-Costello said.
In one class with 35 students, the LTA says, there are eight special needs students including one who cannot speak any English at all and no one present in the class who speaks the same language the student does.
Chaddock-Costello said the recent announcement that the district has made an early start on paying down a multi-million dollar deficit was purchased at the expense of keeping class sizes down.