Halton District School Board Trustees Standing Up for Education
Back in March of this year, the Ministry of Education released a report outlining the provincial government's plans to change Ontario's public education system. A few things included in this report was the Ford government's plans to change the sexual education curriculum, and a cellphone ban.
In addition, as noted by Andrea Grebenc, Halton District School Board (HDSB) Chair, the ministry also announced a couple of consultations on class size (and e-learning) and school board hiring practices.
The consultations will wrap up on May 31, 2019.
When it comes to class sizes, the following changes have been proposed:
- Grades 4 - 8: Maximum board-wide average class size of 24.5 students (currently varied by board) and a funded average class size of 24.5 (currently funded at 23.84 students)
Increases at the secondary level have also been proposed.
"Currently, at the secondary level, there is a large range of class sizes," Grebenc said in an email. "Some class sizes are kept low for safety reasons (transportation, construction, etc.) or are low due to low interest or need (specialized Math, English, Science, skilled trades, upper year arts etc., programs)."
Grebenc said that the class size average is currently set at 22, however, there are some academic courses that have higher enrollment in order to allow for lower enrollment courses to be offered.
As noted, the Ministry of Education is proposing increasing the average class size from 22 to 28 students.
Also as mentioned, the ministry has proposed some e-learning changes.
"The government plans to centralize the delivery of all e-learning courses to secondary students," Grebenc said. "Secondary students will take a minimum of four e-learning credits out of the 30 credits to fulfill the requirements for achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma."
Grebenc explained that this is the equivalent to one credit per year, however, there will be exemptions for some students. If approved, this would increase the class size for online courses to 35 students.
Grebenc noted that some impacts as a result of the announced changes could consist of loss of course choice for students, over-packed classrooms, fewer extracurricular activities available to students, and less caring adults in the buildings.
However, HDSB trustees are working to make sure people's voices are heard.
HDSB trustees created the Halton Education Action website. The goal of this website is to provide information pertaining to local education action meetings - meetings that have been set up by trustees in order to gather feedback from Halton communities in regards to the ministry's consultations on class sizes and hiring practices.
"As the implementation of these consultation topics will have profound effects on our schools, trustees felt that the profile of the ministry consultations required a boost," Grebenc said. "Consultations were announced with little fanfare and we feel that it is critical that we hear from the community on these important issues, so the concept of having three regional meetings and providing an online tool to capture community feedback was born."
The Burlington and Oakville meetings have both already passed, however, the Milton meeting will take place on May 13, 2019, at 7 p.m. at Milton District High School.
Grebenc said that the announcement back in March didn't come with much information. As a result, many attendees at the Burlington and Oakville meetings had questions that trustees could not answer. These questions are as follows.
- "What happens if students require a course to graduate but it doesn’t have the enrollment required to run and it is not suited for e-learning?"
- "What happens to students [who] have IEPs (Individual Education Plans)?" "How will their needs be accommodated in provincially centralized e-learning courses?"
- "I understand that when a teacher retires, their position is eliminated to increase the ratio to 28:1." "What happens when the music teacher or auto shop teacher retires?" "Will these courses still be offered?" "If so, who will be teaching them?"
- "Are students taking centralized e-learning courses at school or at home?" "Who is responsible for the students when they are taking the courses?" "Are parents supposed to provide laptops to students, or will the schools?" "Where will the money come from for this?"
- "We can see that there will be fewer teachers in buildings due to the 28:1 ratio change." "Will there be even less adults in the building when centralized e-learning is implemented?" "At what point does the student:adult ratio in a school building become unmanageable or unsafe?"
- "The consultation goals mention Evidence-based Decision Making as a guiding principle." "Where is the research that supports requiring that every student take four e-learning courses and increasing the ratio to 28:1 improves student achievement and well-being?"
Also on the website, anyone who is interested can participate in an online consultation where they can share their thoughts on class sizes, and more.
"As trustees, our mandate as set out by the Education Act is to maintain focus on student achievement and well-being, to assist the board in delivering effective and appropriate education programs to its pupils and to bring concerns of parents, students and supporters of the board to the attention of the board," Grebenc said. "Holding these meetings and providing a consultation submission tool assists us in meeting these responsibilities in an informed way."
HDSB Trustees will be sending a formal submission to the ministry that will include the consultation results.
"Our overriding assumption is that since the government is seeking feedback on these topics, they will commit to changing course based on the community feedback received," Grebenc said.
Click here to fill out the consultation survey on the Halton Education Action website.
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