'It's just not possible': education officials concerned about changes announced

Larger class sizes and mandatory online courses for high schools are just two of many changes the Ontario government  announced Friday — and they are sounding alarms for educators.

The average class size for high schools will increase from 22 to 28 starting in the new school year, the province said.

"It's not sustainable, it's not manageable," said Erin Roy, president of District 9 for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

She said the class size of 22 has been in place since the 1990s, and an increase by an average of six "is just a step too far."

While some Windsor students agree the changes will mean additional stress for teachers, others either think it won't make a difference. Some say the changes could even be beneficial.

"It's not too concerning, because it just means there's more room to switch into classes," said Zein Abdolzahra, an 11th grader.

There won't be any changes for kindergarten and Grades 1 to 3.

E-learning changes

The province is 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.

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That change doesn't sit well with Greater Essex County District School Board chair Jessica Sartori, who said learning online doesn't work for all students.

"What kind of supports are going to be put in place to help those [students] where online learning might not be for them?" she said.

Sartori said she also has questions about the reasoning behind the push towards e-learning, and wonders if it will take away from in-classroom learning.

According to Ken Montgomery, dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor, e-learning is only effective when there is adequate technology to support it—technology that costs money.

Montgomery thinks e-learning has room to enhance digital literacy, but said he's "a bit skeptical as to whether or not that's the rationale behind this potential move, or if it's simply about saving some dollars."

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For 10th grader Aiden Zalisko, e-learning could be good or bad.

"I feel like I'd be more productive at home working online than in school, because sometimes the classrooms can be a little loud and noisy, it's hard to concentrate," he said.

But Tyson Woods, 11th grader, worries how some other students would fare.

"If you learn visually, it's better for you to be in the classroom, and get to see hand to hand with the teacher and she can help you," he said.

The specific list of online courses has not been released yet.

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Neither the local public or Catholic school board would comment on the changes announced Friday.

Both boards said that since they were just learning about the changes, they couldn't comment on specifics.

With the changes in place, Roy doesn't believe Ontario will still be one of the top places for education in the world.

"By having these cuts, it's just not possible."