CORNWALL, Ontario – Hundreds of Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School and St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School students walked out of their classrooms at 1:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, protesting proposed changes to education by the Ford government.
The two local schools are among 600 across the province that said they would participate in the peaceful, walk-out protest. The protest, bearing the hashtag #StudentsSayNo, spread after a post by Natalie Moore, a Grade 12 student at Listowel District Secondary School in Listowel, ON went viral on social media. Moore explained that she wanted to make a statement after receiving no reply from her local MPP concerning questions about education changes.
The Ford government announced significant changes to the provincial education system in March. Changes include class size requirements for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted up to 28 from the current average of 22. Cellphones will be banned from classrooms and a new sex education curricula will be implemented. Although Education Minister Lisa Thompson said there will not be any job loses as a result of the change, Harvey Bischof, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, believes 20 per cent or 5,500 teachers may lose their jobs in publicly funded systems.
“The previous government left us an outdated system that did not prepare our students for the realities of today,” said MPP Jim McDonell in a press release. “We are going to be investing in education and students in a way that is focused on student achievement and well-being.I have heard from employers in my riding that they are forced to go outside of our province for entry-level jobs. This is not right, and we are taking steps to address the lack of basic skills.”
“We are in Grade 12, so some people might think this won’t affect us, but it does. It’s going to (influence) future generations and what we stand for,” said Chloe Caitlin McNaughton, Holy Trinity student. “What I have always been told is, the smaller class size, the better the learning because you get more one-on-one attention. With a larger group, you might not have as much time with a teacher and that may impact certain students who need the extra help.”
Local mother, Meghan Carter, agreed with students and attended the protest to offer moral support. Carter emphasized that everyone learns differently, so forcing students to take online classes may not help them succeed or showcase their capabilities.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous. We have kids that are struggling, especially emotionally with a lot of anxiety in today’s society, and as a parent I have been fighting for more support in schools. So, to hear that they are going to take something away is ridiculous…I just wanted to support them. I think that more parents should be here too. They’re our children,” said Carter.
“Our Government has been clear from the beginning that we are listening to parents and consulting with our education partners to modernize and improve Ontario’s education system from kindergarten to Grade 12,” said McDonell. “We welcome conversation with any stakeholder who wants to work with us in good faith to ensure our plan always puts students first and remains fair to our educators.”