Letter: Crowded classrooms unsafe

To the Editor,

As  a former kindergarten teacher, I am supporting kindergarten educators who are advocating to reduce the maximum class size of 30 students in order to achieve safe environmental distancing and meet the requirements of heightened hygiene routines. Disinfecting surfaces and learning materials for this age group is a daunting task. Add the supervision of toileting, hand washing, and nose blowing. Admit that, even if three to five year olds were developmentally ready to  social distance, kindergarten classrooms are not big enough to create adequate physical parameters. 

The full day kindergarten program depends on an environment of shared spaces (sand, blocks, water, math exploration, carpet time, guided instruction centres). New hygiene protocols mean that these shared learning supports have been removed or limited to individual use. By reducing the number of students, kindergarten educators could manage the shift in programming to “individual learning materials and personal use manipulatives” as outlined in the back to school plan.  

Past organizational options for kindergarten have included alternate day classes and half day programming (morning or afternoon). Also, staggered entry for kindergarten students (allowing small introductory groups to learn routines) was once common practice in Ontario, and would work well now.  
Since the introduction of Ontario’s full day kindergarten program, the promise of meaningful play- and inquiry-based instruction has been compromised due to crowded, often chaotic, classrooms. Thirty is too many. Now it is also unsafe.  Please support the need to revisit maximum class sizes for our youngest and most vulnerable students.

Janet Trull
Retired teacher