Nearly 70 teachers were handed redundancy notices from the Limestone District School Board on Thursday morning.
According to Andrea Loken, president of the OSSTF Limestone District 27, the local union chapter that represents the public school teachers, 67 secondary educators were handed the notices.
Loken said the school board made the decision at their monthly meeting on Wednesday evening, sending letters to teachers who had less than 6.4 years of experience the next morning.
According to Andre Labrie, superintendent of human resources at Kingston’s public school board, the redundancies are not final, and are only warnings that teachers may not be needed next year.
“If we’re worried there may not be enough positions for everyone come September, we give teachers notice that that may in fact happen,” said Labrie.
Labrie said they usually send out 30 to 40 notices at the end of each school year, depending on enrolment numbers, but that number increased by 24 this year due to provincial funding cuts.
Back in April, the provincial government announced several proposed changes to the education system, including implementing larger class sizes, from 22 students per teacher to 28 in grades four to 12.
When the changes were first announced, the trustees of the Limestone District School Board sent a letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson, estimating larger class sizes would cut about 80 jobs from their board over its four-year rollout.
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No decision has been made to implement smaller class sizes, but Labrie said the extra 24 redundancies were sent out keeping in mind that class sizes could change come September.
Across the board, Labrie says the loss of 24 extra teachers equates to a loss of 60 classes available to students.
Labrie said the classes that are the least well attended would be cut first. Some other boards have expressed concerns that the loss of teachers will mean the arts and skilled trades classes will be cut.
Not only will student’s choices be affected by the potential loss, but Loken says simply losing bodies in the school could be harmful for students.
“Students already don’t get the support they need, violence in schools has been on the rise, and that’s partly due to lack of support for students. The system’s already stressed and the only way to make that better is to have more caring adults in the building,” said Loken.
Nevertheless, Labrie said the school board is hoping many of the teachers who received a letter on Thursday will be found a job between now and September.
Labrie added that currently, the province has not set anything in stone, including the increased class sizes. The government is currently in consultations to see how they could implement their proposed changes and Labrie said he hopes the Ministry of Education will keep board’s like his in mind before they make their final decisions.
“Our hope would be that we would be part of that conversation so that if we have to find efficiencies, we can do so knowing our system and knowing how we can at least mitigate the potential impact on students,” said Labrie.
“I think there are probably other ways we can find efficiencies in the system without having this kind of impact on the students.”
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