Abbotsford had B.C.’s most-crowded Grade 4-7 classrooms last year

Abbotsford had B.C.’s most-crowded Grade 4-7 classrooms last year

District was only one in Fraser Health to ask for cohort expansion

The Abbotsford School District was the only one in the region to ask to expand cohorts beyond the 60-person limit set by the province.

Fraser Health granted the exemption earlier this month. A Fraser Health spokesperson told The News last week that no other districts in the region had asked for such permission. Fraser Health is the largest health authority in British Columbia, encompassing a swath of the Lower Mainland between White Rock and Hope. Eleven school districts operate within its borders. (The Ministry of Education said three districts across the province had applied for such an exemption.)

RELATED: Abbotsford parents upset as district gets cohort exemption to maximize class sizes at elementary school

Kevin Godden told trustees last week that the exemption was necessary because middle-school class is podded with another class in the same grade. Each class has as many as 30 students, a teacher and, often another support staff worker. The district was told it could expand a cohort (also called a “learning group”) to as many as 65 people, if needed, Godden told trustees.

Godden said the exemption has been applied to 18 of 160 middle school classrooms in the district. (That suggests that not all classes are at their 30-student maximum.) He said that the shuffling of classes is a normal part of the start of the school year as the district aims for efficiency. The struggle to create classes was complicated, Godden said, by the implementation of a transitional program for students whose parents didn’t want them to attend full-time school.

“I can’t impress upon you how complex this was,” he said.

That complexity is linked, in part, to the Abbotsford school districts quest for maximized class sizes in the ongoing quest for financial efficiency.

Last year, Abbotsford had the most-crowded classrooms in the Fraser Health region for kids in Grades 1 through 8. Its Grade 4-7 classrooms were the most-crowded in the province, while its Grade 1-3 classrooms were the second-most-crowded in B.C. Six schools had average class sizes above 29 students.

Administrators have said increasing class size helps each dollar of school funding go further.

“We have to try to be efficient,” Godden said last week.

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Abbotsford had B.C.’s most-crowded Grade 4-7 classrooms last year