April 11, 2019 6:55 pm
Updated: April 12, 2019 8:00 am

Dozens of Saskatchewan classrooms operating overcapacity: province

Seventy Saskatchewan schools are operating at 100 per cent capacity or higher.

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A growing number of Saskatchewan schools are bursting at the seams, and the NDP is calling on the government to fix the problem.

There are currently 70 schools operating at 100 per cent capacity or higher. Twenty of those schools are more than 120 per cent full.

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The average capacity for a classroom is 19 students, according to the province. The Ministry of Education says it tracks capacity based on a “complicated formula” that’s based on instructional space in a school.

READ MORE: New schools, hospitals included in Saskatchewan budget

The province says overcrowding in classrooms isn’t a new problem, but Saskatchewan’s growing population is contributing to the issue.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant referenced his days as a school board trustee in the early 2000s, saying there were “utilization challenges in a number of [the] schools back then, too.”

Government funding is available for schools operating over 100 per cent capacity and once schools hit 120 per cent the government starts considering relocating space or additional buildings, such as portable classrooms.

READ MORE: Education sector says Sask. budget falls short of financial pressures

“We have to make sure that we continue to consider public education as an investment and not a cost,” said Wyant. “We need to make the right decisions for kids and make sure we’re getting the right outcomes in our classrooms.”

Although the government announced funding for new schools in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw in the 2019-20 budget, NDP education critic Carla Beck says she’s concerned the capital investments aren’t keeping pace with Saskatchewan’s population growth.

“We see children learning in areas outside of classrooms; we see the conversion of libraries in some schools. Those pressures are there and they’re impacting the classroom experience,” Beck said.

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Beck says much of the province’s growth is coming from children ages six and under. She says once that age group reaches high school, overcrowding could become an even bigger problem.

“At one point, there were a number of high schools that were still at 70 per cent [capacity]. That is not going to be the case in the next few years,” Beck said.

“It takes time to plan and build these schools. We need to be ready for that growth when that cohort moves into high schools and I’m not sure that we currently are with the stock of high schools.”

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