Crowded in Clarenville: Parents petition for smaller class sizes, more resources

Concerned about class sizes, parents in Clarenville are going straight to the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

Amanda Bambury, who has a son at Riverside Elementary in Grade 4 and another one set to enter kindergarten in the fall, launched a petition calling for smaller class sizes.

"There are so many kids in the classroom that there's no personal space for the children," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show on Friday.

Kids are 'elbow to elbow'

"It's affecting how they're learning. It's taking more time for the teacher to be able to control the class than it is for them to be able to actually teach," she said.

"It's affecting our kids' mental health and well-being."

Bambury said her son's classroom has 28 kids "elbow to elbow" in a room better suited for 20 kids, which she said is stressful for the kids and the teacher.

"I can't imagine it would be very easy to handle 28 Grade 4 students, or Grade 2 students," she said.

"You're talking small children. Just to get them to quiet down enough in the morning to start class can be a struggle, I'm sure."

It's not just her son's class, but a school-wide issue, and one that parents in the area have been protesting for a year.

With work in nearby Bull Arm and Long Harbour, Clarenville's population grew nearly 20 per cent between 2006 and 2016 — from 5,274 to 6,291 people.

Petition also addresses life skills, inclusion

Class sizes aren't the only issue addressed by the petition, which wants the school system to offer more life skills along with academic achievement.

"There's not a lot of life skills being taught right now, I don't believe," said Bambury. "Our kids, we need to prepare them to be out in the real world, and there's a lot of that lacking."

The petition also calls for more resources to support the the school district's inclusion model of education.

"The inclusion model is great in theory. Practically, it's not working," she said.

"Right now, our kids are going through a system which I don't believe people are aware it's as broken as it is. The government has done a very good job of trying to convince our parents and our community as a whole, right across the province, certainly, that this education system, it's OK, it's not that bad. It's that bad. It really is."

Since launching the petition with Jeanette Avery, Bambury said she's heard from several teachers who support what they're trying to accomplish.

"Something has to give. Something has to break eventually," she said. "It's our kids' future. We have to try to do something about it."

Government response

In a statement to CBC News Friday, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said it pays attention whenever parents raise concerns.

But it made no promises, instead outlining the policy for teacher allocation.

Teaching positions are allocated to school districts, the statement said, and in turn assigned to schools based on enrolment and program needs.

"If a class size increases beyond two extra students, school administrators have a process in place to work with the district to request extra resources," the statement said.