Manitoba schools getting creative with overcrowded classrooms

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Many Manitoba students are heading back to class on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Utrecht Robin/REX/Shutterstock

As about 200,000 kids go back to school in Manitoba this week, some will be packed into overcrowded classrooms and some creative spaces.

“We actually have converted hallway spaces into classrooms,” Brian O’Leary, Superintendent of Seven Oaks School Division, said.

There are more than 500 portable classrooms tacked on to schools in Manitoba this year – more than ever. Seven Oaks School Division has 46 portables.

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O’Leary says they have more students per square foot of space than any other division in the province.

“Amber Trails, our second newest school, James Nisbet, also in the Maples – both of those are 150-180 kids over capacity,” he said.

He says they’ve had to be very creative to find spaces for students to learn.

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“We’ve taken specialty spaces and converted them to classrooms. Before opening a new school, we’ve sometimes had two classes in a library,” he said.

Some relief is on the way. An addition is in the works for Amber Trails School. O’Leary says they’re in discussions for a high school addition at West Kildonan Collegiate.

Education Minister Ian Wishart says they’re working on getting new school spaces opened up across the city.

“We know we’re behind in terms of building schools. We’ve got a lot of very old schools and a lot of schools that were built in the 60s and 70s that are in need a quite a bit of work, so we’re spending a lot of dollars on maintenance as well,” he said.

He says almost every school division in the province is growing and they’re working to better keep up.

Two new schools are in development for Niverville and Winkler with construction starting soon.

Wishart says three new schools are in development for Winnipeg one in Brandon but don’t expect shovels in the ground until 2019.