Teacher makes plea for new class size limits in kindergarten

A Crescent Valley teacher is asking School District 8 to give more support to its youngest students as it launches full day kindergarten throughout the district.

  • Mar. 31, 2011 11:00 a.m.

A Crescent Valley teacher is asking SD8 to give more support to its youngest students as it launches full day kindergarten throughout the district.

Betty Radcliffe, who teaches kindergarten at Brent Kennedy Elementary, says four and five- year-old students don’t necessarily know how to find their way to the washroom during lunch, still have emotional outbursts when their parents drop them off for the day, and generally aren’t as independent as their older counterparts. And if one child has a problem, it often brings her entire class to a halt.

“It’s pretty difficult to do individual needs when you have a class of 22 four and five year olds,” she told the Kootenay Lake school district’s finance committee Wednesday.

She and district early learning facilitator Nancey DeVuono say they would like to see the district lower its maximum kindergarten class size to 18, and have a full-time educational assistant in each room.

But with no additional funding available from the province to support the move (which superintendent Jeff Jones says could cost between $200,000 and $700,000), they also offered a compromise: have all kindergarten students attend class on an every-other-day basis for the first month so teachers can get to know each student, then let teachers request the amount of support they feel they need.

“It’s not just about giving the teacher a lunch break,” added DeVuono. “It’s about providing an effective program.”

The two had the sympathy of several on the school board. Former kindergarten teacher and Creston trustee Annette Hambler-Pruden said she doesn’t think the provincial government understands the pressure that comes with dealing with a large number of young children.

“I don’t know why they don’t understand it,” she said. “If they ever went into a daycare they’d understand.”

Salmo trustee Art Joyce also criticized the province’s plan for the full day program. “It’s an impossible task the way it’s set up,” he said. “I’m not sure the legwork was done to set this up.”

The Kootenay Lake school district has already launched full-day kindergarten in Creston, Salmo, Slocan Valley and North Kootenay Lake, and plans to extend the program to Nelson schools this year.