Elementary Class Sizes for September

Many people have questions about class size and how many students they can expect to see in their child's class this year.  

Class sizes are based on provincial rules and funding. There are "caps" or maximum class size limits on some grades and/or programs but not all grades have caps. There is also something called "averaging". This means that some class sizes are based on maintaining a  district-wide average; most of the classes across the district have to be below the average, but a certain percentage can be above the average.

Here are the basic rules from the Ontario Ministry of Education:

  • Kindergarten:  the maximum class size is capped at 29 students per class with one teacher and one Early Childhood Educator for each class;
  • Grades 1, 2, 3: no class can be above 23; 90% of classes in these grades must be 20 or below; 
  • Grades 4, 5, 6: there is no maximum class size, and the system average must be 24.5 across all junior and intermediate classes;
  • Grades 7, 8: there is no maximum class size, and the system average must be 24.5 across all junior and intermediate classes;

In the spring, we planned all of our classes for September based on these caps and averages. This August, we had to re-do all of this planning in order to provide classrooms for students attending school in person and those attending virtual school. The class size caps and averages apply to both in person classes and remote classes, collectively. 

One way of meeting physical distancing requirements is to ensure maximum space for students attending school in person. With this in mind, every effort has been made to keep class sizes for in-person learning as low as possible. Classes above the average are more likely to occur in remote learning classes where students are not with an in-class cohort. 

This table shows the requirements, the average elementary class sizes that were calculated in June, and the new projections for elementary class sizes for In-Person and Remote for September 2020:

Ministry Requirement

Original Projected Averages for Sept 2020

In Person


Sept 2020



Sept 2020


Average of 26; cap of 29





Grades 1,2, 3

Cap of 20 (10% up to 23)





Grades 4,5,6

No maximum

District average of 24.5





Grades 7, 8

No maximum

District average of 24.5




These are averages. There are classes where the actual number of students exceeds the average, either in person or remote. This can occur in schools with very high or very low enrolment, a large number of program offerings, and/or a large variance in the number of students per grade. 

If we look at the distribution of classes for this year, in person students are more likely to experience smaller class sizes, but schools may have more combined grade classes.  Remote learning students are more likely to have larger class sizes, but fewer combined grades. Wherever possible, we have tried to group remote learning students by their home school.

At this time, all classes have been planned to meet the Ministry requirements. Every September, we review class sizes based on the actual number of students attending including new registrants, moves and program changes. This will happen as usual this year, and as always that can lead to some adjustments where necessary. School principals do an excellent job of managing that process to make any adjustments as quickly and as easily as possible. 

The Ministry of Education provided $30 million in additional funding to support hiring of teachers to help reduce class sizes. The OCDSB’s share of this funding amounted to a total of 12.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, which translates to approximately 10 additional classrooms, when preparation time is accounted for. Following the announcement of the federal investment, the OCDSB received additional funds to support hiring additional non permanent staff. The total amounted to approximately 20.25 FTE or approximately 17 new classrooms. The majority of these have been directed to elementary schools to reduce class sizes to the extent possible, although the impact of these positions, spread across a total of 1700 classes, will be limited.

Lower class sizes is one of many strategies to mitigate risk as we return to school. In areas of the community where Ottawa Public Health has reported higher transmission rates of COVID-19, additional efforts have been made to keep class sizes as low as possible. Other key prevention strategies include keeping class cohorts, using masks and/or personal protective equipment, practicing good hygiene, maintaining physical distance, proper respiratory etiquette, regular cleaning and high touch surface cleaning, dividers in classrooms for grades 1-3, using outdoor learning spaces - all of these  strategies are being implemented.

It takes a community to keep schools safe. We appreciate your support in following public health guidelines. We look forward to welcoming students back to school.  


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