Community Education Forum Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 at the Bruce County Museum in Southampton (photo by Jordan MacKinnon)

Southampton forum hears opposition to education changes

There were plenty of warnings about proposed funding cuts to the education system at a community education forum in Southampton Tuesday night.

The event, hosted by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, provided an insight into what the provincial government’s proposed cuts would mean to rural schools, including potential cancellation of specialized courses, as well as concerns of less support for students who require help from educational assistants.

The Bluewater District School Board issued lay-off notices to four early childhood educators and 62 educational assistants and gave notice to 92 secondary school teachers that they may be laid off.

Saugeen District Secondary School teacher and Saugeen Shores Deputy Mayor Don Matheson said cuts will add up, fearing students will look elsewhere if local schools can’t offer what they need to achieve their goals.

“When you cut that down, [students] aren’t going to stay around here, they’ll start to look at different options, whether its private school or they’ll move away, which then affects the economy of the area, which affects the population of the school, it’s a no-win cycle,” said Matheson. “We have to make sure the money stays in the system, that the kids have the courses they need, that they are taken care of and that they’re in a safe environment.”

The forum also heard of potential downfalls of the government’s plan to mandate four online classes for secondary school students.

Beyhan Farhadi, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto who studies electronic classrooms, said there’s no evidence of any school system in North America successfully implementing online learning in the manner being proposed in Ontario.

“To remove teachers from the classroom, and then tell students they have to take a class online with next-to-no access to their teacher on the other side, is, I think, kind of a common sense terrible idea,” said Farhadi.

(photo by Jordan MacKinnon)

Absent from the forum was Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Education Lisa Thompson, who had been promoted as a participant. Thompson released a statement prior to the event, which she claimed organizers began promoting her participation prematurely.

“When the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation promoted their education forum this evening, they released the invitations without consulting on my availability,” Thompson said in a news release.  “As Member of Provincial Parliament for Huron-Bruce, it is my duty to be at Queen’s Park to represent the unique interests of my riding.”

A statement read on Thompson’s behalf at the event said she looked forward to hearing the comments and suggestions coming out of the forum.