The Toronto District School Board has released a detailed list of hundreds of high school classes that will be cancelled this fall because of provincial funding cuts that will boost class sizes and eliminate teaching jobs.
A total of 313 classes will be cut — some of them Grade 12 credits that students may need for post-secondary studies — and 304 classes will run with many more students than usual, according to the board.
“I’m very, very worried,” said TDSB student trustee Amin Ali, who’s in Grade 12 at Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate Institute in Scarborough.
“I don’t think the provincial government has thought this through at all.”
The report comes as school boards across the province grapple with the impact of provincial changes in secondary class size averages over the next four years that will increase from 22 to 28 students, resulting in fewer teachers and impacting the number of courses that can be offered.
The TDSB’s figures for 2019-20 are based on class averages moving from 21.7 to 23.6 students. The report includes a breakdown showing the classes that have been cancelled, will be larger, or will be combined. Fewer staff means fewer supports, including 35 fewer guidance classes and 58 fewer library classes.
Among elective courses, a total of 133 classes in Grades 9 and 10, and 414 classes in Grades 11 and 12, will be affected. Among compulsory courses, the cuts will affect some 123 classes in Grade 9 and 64 in Grade 10.
Among the credits axed at some schools are Grade 12 computer science, Grade 12 earth and space science, as well as Grade 12 writer’s craft — which teens may require depending on what college or university programs they want to apply to.
The board is assuring parents that high schools will offer all compulsory courses. However, when a class of a compulsory course is cancelled, all remaining sections of that course will be larger.
Ali was “surprised by the figures,” but “absolutely gobsmacked” when he realized these impacts are just in the first year of the government’s reforms.
“This is the result of a (1.9) increase in class size average?” he said. “If this is what’s happening in year one, by the time we get to year four, it will have catastrophic impacts on high school course selections and student success.”
And according to the president of the bargaining unit for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation in Toronto, “This is just the beginning.”
“The loss of these programs and courses is going to be so distressing to students and their parents,” said Leslie Wolfe. “This is the direct result of a government that has chosen to defund our schools by forcing boards to cut teachers.
“Each year, more and more courses and programs will have to be cut to accommodate for the government’s program of teacher reduction. It’s simply wrong.”
The move comes as the Ford government continues to accuse school boards of fear-mongering and spreading misinformation, with a letter Friday from Peel Region Tory MPPs saying the local public school board is sharing information that’s “premature, or simply not true.”
“Classes will not grow significantly,” said the letter from MPPs including Prabmeet Sarkaria (Brampton South), Natalia Kusendova (Mississauga-Centre) and Rudy Cuzzetto (Mississauga-Lakeshore). They are among the PC MPPs believed to be vulnerable in their ridings, and were recently targeted by education unions in a mass mail out to all voters.
“Class size organization, course offerings, and staffing decisions … will continue to be made by our local school boards, based on enrolment and student demand,” the letter says, repeating the government’s pledge that no teacher will be laid off despite the loss of 3,500 positions or more province-wide as secondary classes jump to an average of 28 students.
Peel school board trustees, however, fired back with a letter of their own to the Tory MPPs, saying “the suggestion that we are sharing inaccurate and premature information … is simply untrue.”
“Although adding one, two or six students to a class may seem like an insignificant impact, it has already resulted in the cancellation of many courses at the secondary level. Fewer teachers means fewer options for students. There is no room for debate on this.”
The neighbouring Halton board has estimated some of its classes will grow to 36 or 46 students once all of the teaching positions are phased out, as 28 is an average and larger numbers are needed to balance out smaller, more specialized classes.
Peel trustees say the Ford government changes will hurt “student achievement, credit acquisition and, ultimately, the ability to graduate. And, yes, it is true that schools decide which courses to cancel, but they are doing so responsibly.”
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said “all boards across the province, face challenges of supporting programming for all students, ensuring safe and suitable learning environments, and honouring collective agreements, while also respecting the government’s mandate to be even more efficient.”
Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy