Sixty children share the same classroom space in an Abbotsford middle school, The News has learned.
At Clayburn middle school, two Grade 8 classes share a single large room. A fabric divider can separate the two classrooms to allow the two teachers to operate separately, but it’s only closed occasionally.
The situation appears to toe the line of what is permissible under provincial back-to-school rules. Those rules permit learning groups up to 60 people, but guidelines and descriptions of learning groups haven’t said such large numbers of students would be sharing the same indoor space for extended periods of time.
Last week, several children at Clayburn middle school were moved to new classes. Such shuffles have happened at multiple schools as the Abbotsford School District seeks to maximize the number of students in each classroom in order to save money.
One parent, who didn’t want her name used, told The News that her son came home upset about being moved to a class with too many other students in it.
When he told her there were 60 kids, the parent couldn’t believe it.
“I laughed and said ‘That’s insane, there’s no way they’d put 60 kids into a classroom,’” she told The News.
But when the mother of the boy contacted a staff member at the school, the staffer confirmed the 60-student figure and said the divider wasn’t currently in use and had effectively turned the combined space into a single large room. The parent was told that the divider would be used depending on the situation and the subjects being taught.
The parent said students sit shoulder-to-shoulder at tables; she said she had been led to believe more would be done to keep students separate. The parent also said she had tried to contact the school district multiple times about the situation, but has yet to receive a response.
It’s unclear if there are other double classrooms in the district, and if so, their number. The News has asked the Abbotsford school district whether the double classrooms have been cleared with health officials.
Public gatherings larger than 50 people are currently banned in B.C., but those limits don’t apply to schools. The province’s back-to-school guidelines permit larger “learning groups” of up to 60 students that allow for up to five dozen people in the same cohort to take part in the same activity. On its website, the government says it can allow for multiple classes to “join together for activities like physical education or music.” The website says that such learning groups allow for two classrooms located “adjactent” to each other to collaborate on shared projects or other activities. The examples of learning groups listed by the province, however, don’t envision such large numbers of children sharing the same indoor space for extended periods of time.
Multiple staff members are present in the room at the same time as the 60 students and the 60-person cap on the size of learning groups is supposed to include staff. but the province has provided the Abbotsford school district an exemption to allow it to increase its learning group (cohort) sizes to 66 at at least one other school. The News has asked if such an exemption has been granted for Clayburn middle.
This story will be updated with information from the school district or health officials, as it becomes available.
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