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ETFO Works to Protect Our Kids (From the General Secretary)

Gene Lewis

It’s  spreading: the  number  of  school  boards looking at moving grade 7 and 8 students into high schools is increasing.

These plans are not driven by the academic, emotional, or social needs of students. There’s plenty of research that shows young adolescents do better in an elementary setting.

Rather,  boards  are  taking  this  direction  as a  result of  finances. It  would appear that the real intent of the  boards is to leave elementary schools with so few pupils that the boards can justify  closing  them  based  on   their  reduced enrolments. The attacks on elementary schools appear rampant.

The prime example of this kind of thinking is evident in the Boundary 2020 exercise currently taking place in the Upper Canada District School Board where plans are underway to close a number  of  schools in  small  communities, weaken French and French immersion instruction, and transfer grade 7 and 8 students into high school. Trustees in the Hastings-Prince Edward, Rain- bow, and Thames Valley school districts are considering similar approaches.

This chaos is yet another example of the impact of the $711 gap – the difference in the funding that the province  provides for each elementary student and each secondary student. Adequately funded elementary schools would  have smaller classes and  more  specialist programs, including  more  hands  on  technology courses,  and more teacher-librarians. What is now considered excess space would be fully used.

ETFO has undertaken a public campaign, Protect our Kids, to oppose the plans of the Upper Canada District School Board. (See page 7.)

Why are we opposed? There are some who say we are motivated by pure self-interest – an attempt to protect our membership numbers. In fact, our members would remain in ETFO even if  they were teaching their students in a high school setting.

We are opposed because moving grade 7 and 8 students into high school is not in their best interest. These students are at a turning point in their lives. They  need the more stable student- teacher  relationships that  elementary schools foster,  and they benefit from  the  leadership opportunities that come with being the oldest students in  a  school.  Elementary schools  are safer, overall, with less bullying. They provide an intellectually stimulating and cooperative environment. Parents  are more likely to be actively involved.

Communities suffer  when  their  elementary schools are closed. The presence of a school is important in attracting industry and businesses to small towns and in keeping existing businesses viable. As well, the community loses a space for recreation programs and community programs.

What can you do?

Stand up for your students, your school, and your community. Make your views known. Contact your local  school board trustees. If  your board is going in this direction, make sure your trustee knows you are opposed.  If  your board is facing declining enrolment, be proactive and let your trustee know you don’t want to see the board try to solve its problems yet again at the expense of elementary students.