The Bluewater District School Board's Director of Education says the Ontario-wide increase in class size is one of the most significant changes in education in the last 15 years.
This year is the first of a provincially planned four-year increase in class size that has caused some public outcry since it was announced by the Ford Government in April.
Director of Education Alana Murray says it will be a significant change for secondary schools, "You're talking about a large number of secondary positions being lost through this process." says Murray adding "That will definitely have an impact on education in Ontario."
The Province announced in the spring, over the next four years, high school class sizes would move from a 22-to-1 to a 28-to-1 student to teacher ratio, an increase in one student per class in grades four to eight and no change in kindergarten to grade three.
"Four to eight didn't really have an impact on us because we were already at the rate that the province was moving to," says Murray.
Murray feels the impact would be two-fold. "One, you have fewer adults in secondary schools which is always a concern when you're supervising students and trying to look at creating safe environments for students and staff."
"Second of course, are the curricular implications which, because we're not able to replace the teachers who are retiring, it will vary from school to school, district to district, what types of qualifications end up leaving the system," says Murray.
She adds, "If you can't replace those, then that certainly can have a detrimental impact on the types of programs that you can offer."
She does note, "The ministry has provided us with mitigation funding that will support the transition process because we're no longer able to replace any of our retiring teachers in secondary."
Murray says classrooms are now built with a smaller square footage than they once were, explaining today's new classrooms are built on a 22-to-1 ratio of students to teachers.
"Boards will be looking at the impact of having to load classrooms at higher numbers and whether or not that's even possible from a health and safety perspective," says Murray.
When asked, why, after asking for public consultation, the Ontario Government is not changing its increased class size plan from what was announced months ago, Murray notes, "It would be difficult to make a change now because the issue is, we do staffing so much earlier than the next school year and everything is in motion now."
She adds, "Even if they were to add additional funds, adding staff in at this time, although its better than having to remove staff, it still creates a lot of disruption."
Murray is optimistic the public input the Ministry of Education has collected over the summer will be considered, "I would hope for the 2020-2021 school year that if they're going to make a change or rethink their position, that would be a good time to do that, so that we can move towards a more compromised outcome."
She says "We're monitoring it and we're trying to take a reasonable approach to the phase-in process and we're hopeful that provincial dialogue will continue."