News / Calgary

Swelling Calgary class sizes prompt high school student's plea to education minister

Frustration over being packed into a Grade 10 social studies class with more than 40 others has prompted a Calgary teen to make an impassioned plea in an e-mail to the provincial education minister claiming students are being set up for failure.

Sharad Gadhia, who attends Queen Elizabeth High School, said up until Monday, two weeks after classes began, students in his class had been forced to share desks with the teacher and each other, and sit on stools. He said, even now, a large table has been moved in to accommodate a few kids and instructional time resembles something closer to that seen in a university lecture hall.

Gadhia shared his concerns in an emailed letter Monday to Minister Jeff Johnson after reading a Metro story last week that indicated the province's top education boss wanted to hear about situations where more than 40 students were being squeezed into classrooms.


"Situations like this don't help a student learn, instead they set up our students for failure" Gadhia wrote in his letter. "I know for a fact that the number of students skipping classes this year is rising dramatically, and there's no way of denying it."

In an interview Tuesday, Gadhia said he's heard of another class at Queen Elizabeth with 53 students crammed in, adding it appears the core subjects are where the greatest issues are being seen.

"It feels like we're not getting the help we need . . . after university, we are going to be the main citizens of Alberta — the workforce of Alberta," said Gadhia, who wants to pursue religious studies after graduating. "If we're not set up for success, we're not going to achieve our goals."

Last week, the Calgary Board of Education conceded some schools were reporting class sizes in the high 30s or low 40s, but added teachers and administrators were working to alleviate issues.

In a statement posted online after Metro's story and another in the Calgary Herald ran, the board informed parents that "Class sizes are flexible and many change through the month of September as students, particularly high school students, determine which classes best fit their timetables, their credit needs for graduation and their plans for the next semester and after high school."

But Trina Hurdman, who is challenging to representing Ward 7, where Queen Elizabeth is located, in next month's school trustee elections said the board has been "completely irresponsible" by going public with claims it could also hire on additional teachers in the coming weeks to aid the classroom crunch.

"By the time they hire all those people — if they hire those people — the semester's already half done," she said. "So, that's not going to help those students."

George Lane, incumbent Ward 7 trustee representative, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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