Many Windsor-Essex students join province-wide walkout
Published Thursday, April 4, 2019 1:52PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 4, 2019 11:06PM EDT
Students in Windsor-Essex and across the province walked out of class Thursday afternoon to protest the provincial government's cuts to education.
"It's important that the government is held accountable for their actions,” said one student, as hundreds joined the province-wide protests on the footsteps of Walkerville Collegiate in Windsor on Thursday.
Organizers are pushing back against several policies being introduced by the Progressive Conservatives, including changes to the province's autism program and a potential shift to bigger class sizes.
Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky attended the walkout at the Walkerville high school.
"They're tapped in they know what's going on politically and they are motivated to say to the government that when they see something that's adversely affecting them or others that they're going to speak," said Gretzky.
Some school boards in the province have written to the education minister highlighting concerns that the planned increases to class sizes will mean fewer elective courses can be offered, such as in the arts and skilled trades.
Boards in Peel region, Toronto and eastern Ontario told Lisa Thompson that her move to increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 will affect student learning.
Louis Brady, a student at Walkerville Collegiate, is worried the changes will impact his post-secondary career.
Brady has dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – and is concerned larger class sizes would mean less help for him.
"I don't agree with larger class sizes because that means I can't get as much help and I think what he is doing is taking away students right and I want to stand up for what I believe in," said Brady.
Chatham-Kent Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls is the only Progressive Conservative member in the region.
He took to social media Thursday morning, outlining his belief the students are being used as pawns and adding there were 35 students in a class when he was in school.
The post has since been deleted.
Students have pushed back against that sentiment, which also included the Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson, who issued a statement concerning the widespread protests:
"Today is a disappointing day for Ontario's parents and students. On a day when we reached out to begin good-faith consultations with Ontario's teachers, we instead are seeing Ontario teachers' unions condoning a student walkout at schools across the province.”
"They just need to listen to student voices, it's not the teachers it's us," said one student at protests in Windsor.
"I don't think these students are being used as pawns,” said Gretzky. “This is a completely student-led initiative."
Gretzky says the Doug Ford government is feeling the pushback to some of its decisions.
“They're trying to balance the books on the backs of the students,” said Gretzky.
Representatives at more than 800 schools from Kenora to Windsor registered for Thursday’s demonstration.
In a detailed "Walkout Organizer's Guide" available online, the organizers of the ‘StudentsSayNo’ protest thank participants "for being the loud and bright fireworks amidst a dark and quiet sky.
— with files from The Canadian Press.