York school board to chop or reduce 159 courses in wake of provincial funding cuts

York school board to chop or reduce 159 courses in wake of provincial funding cuts

High school students in York Region will have fewer class options next fall after the school board announced Wednesday that it is cancelling or reducing 159 courses because of provincial funding cuts.

The York Region District School Board posted a full list, school by school, of 123 courses that have been cancelled, along with 36 courses that will have fewer classes.

“We recognize that these reductions will have implications for students and families,” wrote board chair Corrie McBain and Director of Education Louise Sirisko in a joint message. “We have been working with staff members to minimize the effects on our students.”

Throughout Ontario, school boards are grappling with provincial funding reductions that will result in bigger classes — Grades 9-12 class size averages will grow from 22 to 28 students over four years — and fewer teachers.

Although York is projecting “modest enrolment growth” — it currently has 41,000 students in 33 high schools — the cuts in provincial funding means that 93 high school teaching positions will be reduced through attrition. There are no anticipated layoffs.

The public board, which has a $1.5 billion budget, says this year’s budgeting process was “made more difficult due to reductions in provincial funding.”

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Its list of 159 cancelled and reduced courses includes only those “affected directly by the provincial change in class sizes.” Courses being axed include some that are key for post-secondary studies, such as Grade 12 Writer’s Craft, Grade 12 Calculus and Vectors, and Grade 12 Kinesiology.

McBain and Sirisko say schools have been doing their best to limit the impact. In some cases, this will mean combining courses or increasing class sizes, if possible within existing collective agreements.

“Schools are currently working with students to find alternative options to ensure they can continue in their chosen pathways.”

Last month, the Toronto District School Board released its own list of affected classes — a total of 313 classes will be cut and 304 classes will continue but with many more students.

Stephanie Rea, spokesperson for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said class-size organization, course offerings and staffing decisions are made by local school boards.

She noted the York board receives more than $650 million in funding through the Grants for Students Needs, which “should be used to ensure students are able to take the courses that suit their needs.”

“To further ensure the continuity of programming, as necessary, we’re providing additional teacher job protection funding that could be used for a variety of purposes — for example, hiring for an arts teacher position that could be vacant due to a retirement.”

“We will continue to work with all school boards to ensure that they are making the most responsible and accurate decisions during this process.”

In recent weeks, the Ford government has accused school boards of fear-mongering and spreading misinformation, saying class sizes will not grow significantly.

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

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