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Toronto York Region School Board cancels more than 120 courses due to class size increases

The York Region District School Board will be cancelling or scaling back almost 160 courses in its high schools in the next academic year – the latest district to reveal the impact of provincially directed class size increases.

The school board on Wednesday released a school-by-school list of courses that will be cancelled or course sections that would be reduced in the fall. The courses affected include classes in French, drama, history, geography, science and physics.

In total, 124 courses are being cancelled, and another 35 course sections are being cut.

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In a joint statement, the board’s chair, Corrie McBain, and director of education, Louise Sirisko, said that they recognized the changes would be “disappointing” for students and families.

“We want to assure you that our schools have been doing their best to limit these numbers. In some cases, this may mean combining courses or increasing class sizes where possible within our existing collective agreements,” they stated. “Schools are currently working with students to find alternative options to ensure they can continue in their chosen pathways.”

The government announced earlier this year that it would increase average class sizes across the province by one student in Grades 4 to 8, and to 28 from 22 in high school over the next four years.

It has estimated that 3,475 teaching positions would be eliminated, but Education Minster Lisa Thompson said no teacher would involuntarily lose their job as a result of class-size changes. That means teaching positions would not be filled as educators retire or voluntarily leave the profession.

Stephanie Rea, a spokeswoman for Ms. Thompson, said course offerings are local decisions and the funding that boards receive from the province should be used “to ensure students are able to take the courses that suit their needs.”

“We will continue to work with all school boards to ensure that they are making the most responsible and accurate decisions during this process,” she said in an e-mail statement.

The York school board said it does not anticipate any secondary teachers will be laid off as a result of the changes. However, more than 90 teaching positions in its high schools would be lost next year through attrition, it said.

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In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. McBain said that with fewer teachers, schools are having to make difficult decisions about which courses are offered, other than the compulsory ones needed for graduation. The board’s high-school average class size would increase to about 24.3 from 22 in the next school year, as it moves toward a class-size average of 28 over four years.

Ms. McBain said many students have expressed concern to the board about the loss of elective courses, and about not having as much one-on-one time to work with teachers.

“I’m concerned about student engagement,” Ms. McBain said.

Several school boards have warned that the government’s changes to class sizes would result in fewer course options for students, and could ultimately affect graduation rates.

The Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest school district, said last month that 313 courses would be cancelled or scaled back in the next school year, including classes in English, geography, economics and science, as a result of class-size changes.

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