Alberta Education hasn’t yet posted K–12 student enrolment numbers for this school year, but one trend is already clear: significant growth continues.
Between the 2012/13 and 2015/16 school years, the total K–12 student population of Alberta’s public, separate and francophone school jurisdictions experienced an average increase of 15,000 students per year. Absorbing the vast majority of new students have been the province’s five largest school jurisdictions: Calgary Board of Education, Edmonton Public Schools, Calgary Catholic School District, Edmonton Catholic Schools and Rocky View School District.
Student numbers for 2016/17, as reported in the media and on the websites of the “big five” districts, show that, once again, each has grown by the size of a small town. Sticking out of the pack is Rocky View School Division (RVSD). It is roughly half the size of Edmonton Catholic Schools but will be taking on basically the same number of new students as the much bigger district.
Michelle Glavine, president of Rocky View ATA Local No. 35, has been a middle school teacher in RVSD since 1998 and has witnessed the boom.
“It’s record growth every year. … It’s like increasing by two schools every year,” she said of the district’s ever-growing student numbers.
||2015/16 K-12 enrolment
||2016/17 K-12 enrolment
||2016/17 Reported increase
||AB town close in population to student increase
|Calgary Board of Education
|Edmonton Public Schools
|Calgary Catholic School District
|Edmonton Catholic Schools
|Rocky View School Division
With that growth, Glavine has also seen her school’s foods room turned into a homeroom for Grade 8s, the demise of the school’s computer lab and the loss of a classroom to call her own. All have given way to the demand for space created by the influx of new students. As not enough classroom space for students means not enough classroom space for teachers, Glavine, like several of her colleagues at Bearspaw School and elsewhere in RVSD, are now “teachers on carts.” They have a desk and storage space in the homeroom of another teacher, but travel with their books and other resources on a cart to the rooms and spaces where their students are. She said being on a cart takes some adjustment by teachers, but students aren’t affected.
“I think everybody adjusts to it fairly quickly, but you’re less centred when you’re not in your own space. You always have to think ahead and always make sure you’ve got everything you need on your cart. … Your resources aren’t at your fingertips if you need them,” Glavine said. “But teaching and learning still happen for sure.”
Glavine believes the dramatic growth of RVSD is positive, but where she hears the teachers in ATA Local No. 35 echoing her concerns is the need for supports for students with special needs.
“When you have large student growth, there tends to be a high proportion of [students with] special needs that are coming in as well. … It’s really important to keep up with supports for these students — for example, increasing the number of psychologists, et cetera, to work with students and assess students,” Glavine said. “Teachers from across the province have expressed their concerns about inclusion without supports, but when you have growth, you have that issue of classroom complexity compounded by [student] numbers.” ❚