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cuts hurt

“Cuts Hurt Kids” read just one of many signs carried by Saugeen District Secondary School students who walked out of class April 4. 

Hub Staff

Students in Saugeen Shores took part in a province wide walkout April 4 to protest cuts to education by the provincial government.

Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) organizer and Student Trustee Emma Schuster took a stand at the head of her fellow students who had gathered in front of the high school. The air was brisk but as the megaphone amplified her frustrations Schuster easily kept the crowd riled and heated. She welcomed Bluewater District School Board Trustee Katie Lutz who was onsite to support the students and introduced co-ordinators and volunteers who helped create the event.

Media Co-ordinator for the protest, Teagan Allen, read correspondence sent from students to Education Minister Lisa Thompson. In an email, students had invited Thompson to the event, asked her to hear their concerns and answer their questions.

“A lot of the changes you are proposing could absolutely devastate rural schools like ours and impact the quality of education," Allen read aloud. "Please come and listen to the voices of students and hear their needs before you can’t turn back.” Thompson had not responded to the email.

Schuster said she wanted more than just angry voices and witty signage, she wanted action. She planned a 20 minute brainstorm, where students broke up into groups to write letters to not only the Education Minister but Ontario Premier Doug Ford, parliamentary assistants and education critics. Organizers distributed printed contact information for all the aforementioned officials.

“We’re actually going to sit down and we’re going to start drafting emails, start drafting phone calls with all the students and then after, hopefully for the next week, they’ll send letters, send emails, send phone calls," declared Schuster.

She also made sure to allocate time for the angry voices. As the kids shouted slogans such as “Class size matters” and “Cuts hurt kids," she encouraged them to raise their voices loud enough to be heard in Queens Park.

Schuster said officials have yet to acknowledge the power of the student voice and the importance of students and teachers, "whose lives they affect." She painted a gloomy picture of what this year would look like if teachers were forced to strike to oppose these changes. The crowd booed as she listed all the programs and activities that would cease. “It was not fun when we were in elementary school, it will not be fun when we are in high school," she concluded.

École Port Elgin Saugeen Central School also had strong showing April 4 as Grade 7 and 8 students joined youth across the province to have their voices heard.

“This is very important to me because in the next few years I will be in high school,” said ÉPESCS Student Leader Sarah Ferris who organized the walkout at her school. “I will have to deal with e-learning, which is going to be really hard for students that can't do work on computers," she said.

Mandated e-learning credits are among the changes proposed by the provincial government in addition to an increase in the number of students per classroom.

“The class sizes going up will give less attention to individual students for teachers, which won't help their grades," said Ferris, calling it "a big issue."

Twelve year old ÉPESCS student Ciara Underhill said she had chosen to protest because of the e-learning courses. “A lot of people don't have access to the internet or they don't have a computer device that they can do their homework on. It's just a bad idea,” she said.

Grade 8 student Lauren Gibbons said it was already hard to concentrate sometimes in her class of 22 students and that an increase would only make it harder. "We wouldn't get the help we need from the teacher," said Gibbons.

The provincial increase would see a higher teacher to student ratio in both primary and secondary classrooms. 

"I think the same about e-learning too because if there's no teacher helping you with hands on then you won't get the education that you need," said Gibbons.

Fellow Grade 8 student Brennan Martin agreed. “I won't be able to have as much one on one from a teacher so as a result I won't be able to learn as well,” he said.

Brennan

From left, ÉPESCS students Brennan, Aditya, TJ and Minkyu took part in the province wide walkout April 4 to protest cuts to education.

Signs

From left, École Port Elgin Saugeen Central School (ÉPESCS) Grade 7 Chelby, Sarah, Kaylie, Aidan and Tyler hold signs reading "Class Size Matters" and "This is Our Future."

Emma Schuster

Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) Student Trustee Emma Schuster spoke against the cutbacks proposed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Ministry of Education April 4.

Teagan Allen

To the students gathered at Saugeen District Secondary School April 4, Media Co-Ordinator Teagan Allen relayed an email that had been sent to Education Minister Lisa Thompson.

Group

ÉPESCS Grade 7 and 8 students walked out of their school April 4 to protest against increased class sizes and mandatory e-learning.

protest signs

Saugeen District Secondary School students took part in a province wide walkout April 4 to protest government cutbacks.

Ciara

Standing strong with her friends, ÉPESCS Grade 7 student Ciarra (right) said that she was protesting because of the mandatory e-learning courses. From left, Olivia, Lexi, Hija and Ciara.

student protest 2

SDSS had a strong showing and a loud voice April 4.

Lauren

Holding a sign that read, "Cuts Hurt Kids," Lauren said that students wouldn't get the help needed from teachers if class sizes increase. From left, ÉPESCS students  Brooklyn, Hannah, Lauren, Christina, Sophia and Olivia.