School protests across P.E.I. Monday

Monday was a day of school protests across Prince Edward Island, including student-led protests in Kinkora, P.E.I., and Stratford, P.E.I.

PSB says schools could find out Tuesday how many teachers they'll have this fall

The students themselves organized the protest outside Kinkora Regional High School, saying it was their turn to support their teachers. (Laura Meader/CBC)

About 85 students held a rally in front of Kinkora Regional High school Monday morning as part of a day of school protests across Prince Edward Island.

The protest at Kinkora was organized by students.

"I'm out here to support my teachers, they supported me for the past four years, it's my turn to support them," said Hannah Larsen, 17, who's in Grade 12.

"We're really worried about our electives, we came out here during block B because that's when our electives are."

Staff cuts

On May 25, there was an emergency parent council meeting called at Kinkora where school administrators shared preliminary numbers they had been given for September.

Grade 12 students Hannah Larsen (left) and Olivia Mullins are worried about the loss of electives, courses that they had a chance to take. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Parents said they were told that the preliminary numbers show the school would lose 3.5 positions over 3 years, or 25 per cent of the current staff. Since then, the province announced 25 new positions for English language schools on the Island.

The province said the new staff will be distributed based on school populations and classroom needs. There have been no specific distribution plans released yet. 

Students in Kinkora said they're worried specialty courses will be the first to go if there are cuts.

"Courses like creative multimedia, agriscience, music, culinary, all the courses threatened to be cut," said Larsen.

"These are important because anyone who wants to pursue a career, not in math, not in sciences, they need these courses."

Larsen said her family was aware that she would be leaving class to be part of the protest.

"They do, they're very supportive, if they weren't at work they'd probably be out here with us."

'Very passionate'

Olivia Mullins, 17, is also in Grade 12. 

The Kinkora students say they're concerned about losing electives if the teacher cuts go ahead. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The students were noisy as they walked out of school with their signs in hand, she said.

"Our school is very passionate about our teachers and the issue," said Mullins.

"I hope the Public Schools Branch will see that we need these courses."

Mullins took economics and accounting as electives, and will study business next year. 

"Kids in Grade 9, 10 and 11, they deserve electives," said Mullins.

"Having elective courses really benefited me and I think everybody deserves that same chance to explore their interests."

'So impressed'

"I'm so impressed with the students that have spoken up today," said Janet Payne, member of the parent council at Kinkora Regional High School. 

About 85 students at Kinkora Regional High School spent their B block class outside to raise their concerns about cuts to teacher numbers at the school. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"They've taken it on themselves to support their teachers and to support their school."

She, too, is concerned about the proposed 25 per cent cut to staff.

"It would mean we might as well close our doors, there would be no way that this school could continue to run as a high school with a 25 per cent decrease," said Payne.

"We're not asking for anything more, we're just asking to be left alone."

Payne added that enrolment numbers for Kinkora have increased for September, making it "disappointing" to hear there are still going to be cuts. 

'Big hit to the school'

Parents and students also rallied in Stratford, P.E.I., this afternoon, in front of the Public Schools Branch office.

"So far It looks like we're losing two-and-a-thirds allocation next year," said Leigh Dyment of the Three Oaks Parent Council.  Dyment believes over the next three years, the school will lose eight positions. 

'Cutting teachers cuts courses, which cuts out educational opportunities and damages the future of Prince Edward Island,' says student Josie Green, who spoke to the protesters at the Public Schools Branch in Stratford, P.E.I., Monday. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"It winds up being a big hit to the school," he said. 

"Cutting teachers cuts courses, which cuts out educational opportunities and damages the future of Prince Edward Island," said Josie Green, a Grade 11 student at Kensington Intermediate Senior High, addressing the crowd via megaphone. 

Public Schools Branch director Parker Grimmer addressed the crowd, emphasizing he is pleased with the government's allocation of 27 new teachers — the PSB must now decide where in its 56 schools to put them.

"I probably shouldn't be thanking students for being here, I should be saying you should be in class," Grimmer said, although he lauded the abilities of two students who spoke.

Principals could find out as early as Tuesday how many teachers they will be allotted this fall, he said. The staffing numbers will also be posted on the PSB's website

"Similar-sized and configured schools should be able to rely on similar amounts of staffing," Grimmer said. "But we also need to be looking at the unique realities of class composition issues and the unique needs of regions and some of their commitments to local programming."

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Laura Meader