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Grade 7 students participate in class at East Alternative School of Toronto (E.A.S.T.) in Toronto, Ont. Nov. 30, 2011.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto District School Board voted to eliminate 200 high-school teaching positions, 134 school office staff and 17 elementary vice-principals at a special meeting late Wednesday.

The cuts were meant to help the board cope with a projected $109-million shortfall in its nearly $2.7-billion budget.

The Ontario government's decision to protect full-day kindergarten and small class sizes over other parts of the education budget hit the board's balance sheet hard, and left trustees searching for ways to make up a larger-than-expected deficit.

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Trustee Howard Goodman, chair of the board's human-resources committee, said the cuts put the TDSB in line with staffing levels at other Ontario school boards.

"In my mind, this is a manageable change," he said.

The board employs nearly 6,000 secondary teachers so retirements and resignations are expected to prevent the need for layoffs in that particular job category. Students, however, are expected to feel the cuts in the form of reduced course offerings at some schools.

TDSB staff do expect that some office clerical staff will be laid off.

A decision on whether to eliminate 430 education assistants was deferred to a meeting for next week. Staff have recommended eliminating all but about 60 of those positions in order to free up funds to hire early childhood educators to fill full-day kindergarten classrooms.

The board is hoping to hear from the Ministry of Education on whether it will help education assistants complete the training to become early childhood educators, and therefore avoid layoffs.

"[These cuts]will have an impact on classrooms and it will be a negative one," said Trustee Cathy Dandy, who voted against eliminating jobs.

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Even if the cuts to education assistants are approved, the board will have only saved $50-million. School-based staffing, at $1.95-billion, accounts for most of the budget, so finding another $59-million in savings from items such as transportation, heating and lighting will be difficult. If trustees fail to balance their budget they open themselves to a takeover by the province, which would likely result in program cuts and school closings.

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