April 30, 2019
The Honourable Lisa Thompson,
Minister of Education
13th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street, Toronto, ON
Dear Minister Thompson:
On behalf of the Board of Trustees for the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB), I wish to respond to the recent announcements made by the Ministry of Education regarding changes to the education system in Ontario.
As a Catholic School System, our Trustees take pride in knowing that our students and staff are part of an engaged, compassionate and caring learning community. A Catholic learning community grounded in our gospel values, founded on exceptional instructional and assessment practices, and focused on student-centered learning.
We wish to share with you our concerns regarding the recently announced changes.
Class Size, Attrition, and Small Secondary Schools
Under our current system, the board has done an admirable job through systems thinking to ensure that our schools offer the array of courses required to meet the needs of each community and to foster their respective cultures.
Larger classes do not facilitate an environment where teachers are able to engage students equitably during instructional time. There will be less support for individual students. Current class sizes allow for student engagement and more support from the classroom teacher.
The 28:1 class size average severely affects our two larger secondary schools. This means fewer teachers to support our students in terms of their well-being, fewer elective courses that are required for Grade 11 and 12 pathways to post-secondary, fewer courses for students in our care who are marginalized and most vulnerable, and fewer courses in the skilled trades and technology. The STEM attrition protection will not adequately protect the myriad of science, technology, engineering and math related courses removed from school timetables due to the new class size ratio.
Our three small secondary schools will be decimated in terms of what they can offer to students beyond core courses and we fear students will leave for larger schools in the area that are able to offer a wider variety of courses.
Early estimates indicate that the ALCDSB could see a loss of over 40 teaching jobs because of increased class sizes. Attrition protection may not mitigate the loss in teacher jobs because it does not adequately address teacher qualifications and the remaining courses that will be available to teach under the 28:1 class size ratio.
Mandatory e-learning courses will significantly affect school families, many who reside in rural communities, who may not have Wi-Fi access or the technology required to take these courses.The ALCDSB is a board of diverse communities over a geographical area of 16,000 square kilometers. The Board has continued to support student access to e-learning credits, however, not all students benefit from this type of learning environment. Without the benefit of a more collaborative and structured learning environment, some students will struggle with these courses. This includes, but is not limited to students with special education needs or students at risk.
Grants for Students Needs Funding (GSNs)
The April 26th GSN announcements from the Ministry do not maintain essential staff nor cover the staff lost due to the elimination of the secondary programming amount and the local priorities fund. It is cited that the latter may be duly negotiated through collective bargaining but this could take months based on past precedent. The delay in receiving this information coupled with not receiving the technical papers to date, which specifically addresses our allotments, places undue pressure on our Board administration to ensure that the necessary resources are in place for the coming school year.
Special Education Funding
Recent changes to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) affect classes throughout our board where these new students to our classrooms may not receive the specific care and services they require to succeed. Our board has found it necessary to commit funds beyond those allocated in the GSNs each year to meet the special needs of students. Reductions in funding planned for the 2019 - 2020 will make these compensatory decisions impossible and will result in a loss of direct supports for students with special needs. We ask that the Ministry continue to work with your education partners to ensure to meet the needs of all students with autism and other neuro-developmental disorders.
Our board is proud of its graduation rates. A 28:1 class average, the short-term attrition protection the mandatory e-learning courses and cuts to the OAP will affect student achievement, equity and well-being. We fear graduation rates will fall for all of the reasons cited earlier.
The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board continues to remain committed to working collaboratively and cooperatively with the Ministry of Education during these difficult fiscal times in order to ensure our students receive the top quality Catholic education that they deserve.
Chair of the Board