Online classes get as big as 37 students in Catholic board

·2 min read

Hamilton’s virtual schools can hold as many as 37 students in a classroom, with French immersion classes often being the largest.

In both Hamilton’s public and Catholic boards, many online classrooms host between 30 and 35 students, especially in Grades 4 to 8, while junior and senior kindergarten classrooms often have between 25 and 30 students.

The French immersion classes are often the largest, with some as big as 37 students in the Catholic board, while mainstream English classes can hold between 30 to 35 students, says Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board chair Pat Daly.

“That’s a matter of challenges with the number of French-qualified teachers. I think we have eight or nine total French immersion classes. In English, we have well over a hundred, a number of which are in the thirties but not one over 35,” Daly told the Spectator.

While much of the fuss surrounding school reopenings initially concerned in-person class sizes and physical distancing, online class sizes have become a recent source of frustration for parents whose children are in classes that have more than 30 students and one teacher trying to manage them all.

The public board has said that a number of online classes in Grades 4 to 8 have over 30 students, with the largest being a Grade 7 class of 33. All kindergarten classes are at or under 29 students.

The Catholic board has an average of 20 students per online class in Grades 1 to 3, though there are outliers that can range between 21 and 25.

“Bigger classes are significantly more difficult to teach for my members,” said Nick De Koning, president of Hamilton’s Catholic teachers’ association in elementary schools.

“Remember that some of them are working in “call centre” situations, with technology like iPads that make it tough enough to teach as it is. Having to manage upwards of 30 students at once just makes it harder.”

Virtual classrooms have been a source of difficulty for Hamilton school boards since the schools opened in September. Teachers have reported having limited technology available to them, while parents have complained about difficulties for both teachers and students to get acquainted with the software used to conduct virtual education.

Daly says the schools’ online teachers can make up for class sizes.

“We have every confidence in the professionalism of our teachers and staff. I’m not going to suggest there aren’t challenges — this is not the ideal situation — but we are in unprecedented times so I again have every confidence in our teachers,” he said.

Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator