Abbotsford and Chilliwack have some of BC’s most-crowded classrooms

Of 60 school districts across BC, Abbotsford’s classrooms were among the 5 most crowded in the province across all age ranges.

Chilliwack and Abbotsford have some of the most crowded high schools in BC. And while class sizes generally dipped across BC and the Fraser Valley during the pandemic compared to the year before, they did so only slightly, according to data sets posted online by the BC Government and analyzed by The Current (click to see the local data yourself).

But despite the overall decline in class size, some classes were larger than last year: Grade 4 to 7 class sizes rose in Chilliwack and Mission last year, as did average class sizes in the 8-school Fraser Cascade district, which stretches from Agassiz to Boston Bar.

Of 60 school districts across BC, Abbotsford’s classrooms were among the 5 most crowded in the province across all age ranges. Chilliwack’s classes for Grades 4 and above also consistently had more students than the provincial average, while Langley’s schools had class sizes close to the provincial average, save for its Grade 4 to 7 classes. Mission’s classes, on the other hand, were generally smaller, particularly at the secondary school level. A Mission secondary school class had, on average, 4 or 5 fewer students than one across the river in Abbotsford.

The province and school districts each have influence over the size of classes, and those decisions help determine why one district has more students in its classrooms than another. School districts receive consistent per-student funding from the province and decide how to allocate that money within a set of limits and regulations. (For example, there are caps on the number of students per class, which districts can only exceed in certain circumstances.)

Abbotsford aims to have classes close to the maximums set in bargaining between the BC Teachers Federation and the province. It has said it does that in order to free up more money for other programs and services schools provide. Others are less determined (or able) to push class sizes to the limit. This is where provincial influence comes into play: while ongoing per-student funding is the same across districts, decisions made in Victoria on capital spending for new schools and infrastructure also have an impact on class sizes and the ability of school districts to create more classrooms.

Districts can only exceed the maximum-student cap in certain circumstances—although one Fraser Valley district does so far more frequently than others in the region. Despite their generally large class sizes, Abbotsford had only 2 classes with more than 30 students and Chilliwack had just 1. Langley, which generally had less crowded classrooms, had 21 classes with more than 30 students last year. That was an improvement over the previous year, when it had 58 such classes.

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