Opinion

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highschool- by Mathea Treslan

  As a high school student in Ontario, my expectations that the Ford government was going to be bad news for education have been realized. As of Friday March 15th, a date that marked the end of a leisurely March Break for most Ontario high school students, many of my peers and I felt the imminent threat of the newly-proposed cuts and changes to our education system. Social media buzzed with anxiety surrounding the vague premise of larger class sizes and “mandatory e-learning”. For students who weren’t accustomed to keeping up-to-date with provincial politics, these changes represented a sudden necessity to pay attention.

  First but not foremost, I am concerned by the proposed increase in our board-average high school class size from 22:1 to 28:1. Besides a loss in the one-on-one help and personalized teaching that students so desperately need, we would see a significant loss of teachers. This could be in the range of 40-50 full-time teachers board-wide. Teacher loss would not happen through “firing” per se, but through the failure to replace retired teachers. This is especially relevant and worrisome at OSDSS, as we have a significant percentage of teachers who will soon be retiring. Not only might we lose individualized instruction and a high teacher to student ratio, but the courses that we as students choose to take could suffer directly if a teacher with specialized qualifications retires. Unfortunately, this scenario isn’t a matter of if but when. For example, if our music teachers retire at OSDSS, what will become of the music program? Art and shop courses face the greatest risk.

  The implementation of compulsory e-learning is also a popular issue. Although it is an option at present, taking online high school courses does not seem to be a very popular one among my peers. Some students learn well on a digital platform, but this is certainly not the case for all. Forcing students to take four courses online could potentially lead to higher drop-out rates, not to mention the fact that some families may have difficulty finding access to technology. This particular change leaves many questions unanswered, but is concerning nonetheless.

  These are by no means the only cuts and changes to education that I oppose. A decrease in funding for the local priorities fund is disappointing, as this is the fund which allows the board to prioritize needs and initiatives specific to our area. Cuts to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) would mean more children with autism being forced into our public school system and out of the specialized programs which have helped them reach their full potential for years.

  Surely the Ford government didn’t expect to propose these harmful cuts without a fight, did they? At 1:15 PM on April 4th, high-school students across Ontario who choose to express their opposition will be walking out of class. My peers and I have organized a walk-out at OSDSS as a part of the province-wide “Students Say No” protest. Our aim is to be a small part of the larger movement, as well as to raise awareness in our community. We encourage members of our community to email, call, and write to our Premier, as well as to our local MPP Bill Walker. We ask Doug Ford; why must students be caught in the crossfire between fiscal policy and our right to a quality education? Why target the future of this province, students with autism, the arts? We have not yet been provided with answers to these questions, and we will continue to fight back until we receive them.

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