Stu­dents take their frus­tra­tion to the street

The Glengarry News - - News - BY RICHARD MAHONEY News Staff

“I should be in class, not fight­ing for my ed­u­ca­tion.”

That was one of sev­eral mes­sages ex­pressed by École sec­ondaire catholique Le Re­lais stu­dents last Wed­nes­day as they joined a prov­ince-wide demon­stra­tion against provincial ed­u­ca­tion re­forms.

The slo­gan may have sum­ma­rized the views of peo­ple who have come down on op­pos­ing sides of a de­bate over the demon­stra­tions.

Many have ex­pressed sup­port for the stu­dents, say­ing they were jus­ti­fied to take their griev­ances to the streets.

Oth­ers would con­cur with only the first part of the slo­gan, con­tend­ing the stu­dents ought to have re­mained in school.

How­ever, both sides would agree that these is­sues are not go­ing to be re­solved any time soon.

Teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tion work­ers in On­tario have “formed a com­mon front to de­fend a strong pub­licly funded ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that is of high qual­ity and ac­ces­si­ble to all.”

Five unions rep­re­sent­ing work­ers in every school board in On­tario have de­clared jointly that, “the cuts be­ing made to the ed­u­ca­tion bud­get will have dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on stu­dent well-be­ing and achieve­ment.”

At a lo­cal level, there is a move­ment afoot to ex­pand the cam­paign against provincial cut­backs that will see about 3,500 teach­ing posts cut over the next four years.

Geral­dine Fitz­patrick Bor­land, of Lan­caster, is urg­ing par­ents and teach­ers to em­u­late the stu­dents. She sug­gests an “Ed­u­ca­tion is Free­dom” T-shirt day be held so cit­i­zens can show their sol­i­dar­ity with stu­dents.

“These cuts will di­rectly af­fect our school,” says Le Re­lais stu­dent Élodie La­mon­tagne, a leader of last week’s walk­out.

“The gov­ern­ment cuts are go­ing to harm stu­dents with spe­cial needs. If we have fewer teach­ers and larger classes, there will be less one-on-one teach­ing,” she adds.

About 150 Le Re­lais and 65 Glen­garry Dis­trict High School stu­dents were among those tak­ing part in the demon­stra­tions.

Some 3,475 full-time teach­ing posts will be elim­i­nated through at­tri­tion be­tween 2019-2020 and 2023, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment memo sent to school boards.

The prov­ince will save about $851 mil­lion by not re­plac­ing teach­ers who retire or re­sign.

At the same time, the av­er­age class size re­quire­ment for Grades 9 to 12 will be ad­justed to 28, up from the cur­rent av­er­age of 22. Suzanne Blouin wrote on The

News Facebook page that she hoped peo­ple of all ages would add their voices to the protests. “The im­pact of these changes to the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem (es­pe­cially the size of a class) will be felt on us all. Ed­u­ca­tion is an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture.”

A rally Satur­day at Queen’s Park fol­lowed Wed­nes­day’s walk­outs by thou­sands of stu­dents at about 600 schools across the prov­ince.

“This was not a school or school board sanc­tioned event and classes ran as nor­mal dur­ing this time. It lasted for about one hour. Com­mu­nity po­lice were called to help main­tain stu­dent safety. School staff su­per­vised stu­dents who re­mained on school prop­erty and within the school,” GDHS Prin­ci­pal Jen­nifer MacLach­lan said in a state­ment.

“It is im­por­tant to note that the school and the school board do not ac­cept oth­ers ad­vo­cat­ing for stu­dents to walk out of their classes and of their school,” she wrote in a let­ter to par­ents and guardians.

“We believe that stu­dents should re­main safely with the school and should not en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties that dis­rupt learn­ing. As staff at the school, we en­deav­our to as­sist our stu­dents in un­der­stand­ing how to give voice to mat­ters that they believe are im­por­tant to them in a man­ner that

Board “does not ac­cept oth­ers ad­vo­cat­ing for stu­dents to walk out of their classes,” while par­ents urge “Ed­u­ca­tion is Free­dom Day.”

promotes the safe and ef­fec­tive oper­a­tion of the school. We hope that you will take some time to speak to your child/children about safe and ap­pro­pri­ate means to ex­press their views.”

Premier Doug Ford has stated that the stu­dents are be­ing used as pawns by teach­ers’ unions.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Lisa Thomp­son has said that larger classes are ac­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial since they teach stu­dents to be re­silient.

RICHARD MAHONEY PHO­TOS

COLOUR­FUL COM­PLAINTS:. Stu­dents tell Premier Doug Ford that he is ru­in­ing their artis­tic dreams and that they could fash­ion more cre­ative posters if arts pro­grams were not axed.

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