10/06/2014 01:47 EDT | Updated 12/06/2014 05:59 EST

Manitoba says more than 100 new teachers hired to reduce class sizes

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government says it has hired more than 100 new teachers this year as part of its goal to reduce class sizes.

Education Minister James Allum says the province has hired a total of 315 teachers in the first three years of its plan.

Speaking at the opening of a new kindergarten classroom in Winnipeg, Allum said almost 60 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 3 classes now have 20 or fewer students.

Allum says that means teachers have more time to spend with individual students to assess their skills in the critical early learning years.

The government will have spent almost $40 million by the end of this fiscal year on the smaller-class initiative that began in 2011-12.

As part of the plan, school divisions will be required to ensure kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms are at 20 students or fewer by September 2017.

The province is also building and renovating schools across the province.

"We know that students are more likely to succeed when they have more time with their teachers," Allum said in a release Monday. "I would like to thank school divisions for supporting this important initiative."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the government has spent $29 million since the program began.