More than 135 local teachers could lose their jobs under the province’s plan to increase secondary school class sizes.Larger class sizes and mandatory online courses for high school students are among the many education changes announced by the Ontario government.The average class size for high schools will increase to 28 from 22 starting in the new school year in September.The province is also making it mandatory for high school students to take at least four online courses out of the 30 they need to graduate starting in the 2020-21 school year.In a statement, Greg Anderson, chair of the Grand Erie District School Board, said moving to an average class size of 28 students will mean the loss of about 94 teaching positions and eight additional jobs related to secondary school programming.“Understandably, this will create a challenging situation for our board,” said Anderson. “As we are developing our staffing plans moving forward, we will exercise extreme restraint in hiring to replace retiring teachers or those who leave the board for other opportunities.“We will also look for ways to offset the impact of this change over time, as was outlined by the education minister.”Although representatives from the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board wouldn’t speculate on how many jobs could be lost under the provincial plan, the union representing its high school teachers said it could be up to 60, including 40 teachers.“That is a third of our secondary staff,” said Carlo Fortino, acting president of the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. “Many of our young, enthusiastic teachers would lose their jobs.“Many classes could have up to 40 students. It is a recipe for chaos. It’s going to have a dramatic impact. It’s very distressing.”In a statement released by the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, chair Rick Petrella said the board is in the process of finalizing enrolment statistics and staffing projections.“When we receive more information from the Ministry of Education about the proposed changes, we will be in a position to share the impact on our staffing complement,” said Petrella. “Our stable financial position matched with clarification from the ministry will assist us with this process.”Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation president Harvey Bischof said: “The government has declared war on Ontario’s public education system.”He said the increased class sizes, phased in over four years, will result in a cut of 3,630 teachers —  “a loss that cannot possibly be absorbed without a significant impact on student learning and success.”Bischof said other changes announced by the province, including a reduction of 12.91 per cent of the Pupil Foundation grant over four years and a reduction of 5.88 per cent to the overall Grants for Student Needs over the same period, will remove  $1.4 billion from Ontario’s public education system.He said the moves amount to “an appalling betrayal of the public trust.”“Not only do they make a mockery of the claim that there is fat to cut in Ontario’s public education system, but given the premier’s repeated election promises that no jobs will be lost, the government quite simply has no mandate to make the changes.”Fortino said OECTA is looking at several ways to combat the changes, including putting public pressure on the government through protests and letter campaigns. He said they are also considering court options.“Some of these things, including class sizes, are supposed to be collective bargaining items,” he said.Anderson said slightly larger class sizes proposed for Grades 4 to 8 are still being assessed by the Grand Erie board.He added that the board is “pleased” to see the ministry’s focus on increasing exposure to skilled trades, technology and apprenticeship training.“We hope this will help boost Grand Erie’s already strong Specialist High Skills Major programs in construction, manufacturing and transportation.”Anderson said the board is “cautiously optimistic” about the government’s commitment to increasing learning about Indigenous perspectives, cultures, contributions and histories, a “key priority for the board.”He  said Grand Erie also is encouraged that the ministry is seeking input on hiring practices.

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