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Students speak out about loss of beloved school vocal group, Mayfield Magnetics

Students at a high school in Caledon, Ont., are speaking out against provincial government increases to class sizes that will mean the cancellation of a popular vocal group known as Mayfield Magnetics.

Vocal ensemble at high school in Caledon, Ont., cancelled next school year due to larger classes

Mayfield Magnetics are being silenced by the provincial government's increases to class sizes. The lunchtime class will no longer be offered next school year. (Mayfield Magnetics)

Students at a high school in Caledon, Ont., are speaking out against the provincial government's increases to class sizes that will mean the cancellation of a popular vocal group known as Mayfield Magnetics.

The music class, offered over the lunch hour as part of a regional arts program at Mayfield Secondary School, allows students to be part of a vocal ensemble. Grade 10 to 12 students in the class spend 30 minutes a day rehearsing vocal jazz techniques. Caledon is northwest of Toronto.

Mayfield Magnetics is one of four lunchtime music classes, two vocal and two instrumental, being cut at the Peel Region high school because it will have seven fewer teachers in the 2019-20 school year, according to principal Jim Kardash. He said the non-compulsory class is an additional credit.

Matthew Oliveira, a Grade 12 student at the school, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Monday that the class is unique, because it gives students an opportunity to learn a music genre not part of the curriculum, such as jazz, and its cancellation is a tremendous loss.

Mayfield Magnetics highlights both vocalists and instrumentalists, he said.

'It gives me a kind of a community'

"Not only does it help me grow as a musician, but it gives me a kind of a community that is not offered anywhere else: an environment for me to learn, not only music, but a work ethic, professionalism, interpersonal skills, relationship-building," Oliveira said Monday.

"It's a unique experience, having it over three years, and just kind of growing with the people, growing with the teachers and the other members around me."

Oliveira, who plans to study media production at Ryerson University in Toronto after he graduates, said the loss means some students will never have the chance to be part of the group for all their high school years.

"It hurts to see that my siblings that are coming, that are in their first year of doing this program, won't have the same opportunities as I do."

Student writes letter to Premier Ford about loss

Meanwhile, Isabella McCloskey, a Grade 11 student at the school, has written a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford questioning the decision that led to the loss. She said Mayfield is a "unique school environment" because of its regional arts program.

Mayfield Magnetics sing the song Giants, by Lights, for the CBC Music Class Challenge in October 2018. (CBC Music)

"These disciplines enrich the community with talent and passion that ignites creativity in all. This creative outlet is an influential form of self-expression that deserves to be celebrated rather than disregarded," she wrote.

"Course cancellations will establish an inability for students to utilize their gifts and discover their passions. The denial of specialty courses, such as arts and technology, will result in a lack of interdisciplinary exposure for young people."

McCloskey said students know they are supported by their communities, even though they don't feel supported by their provincial government.

'We will question the choices of our political leaders'

"Our government is teaching students that we do not matter, our voices do not deserve to be heard, and our education is worthless. We recognize our worth, we will question the choices of our political leaders, and we will never deny ourselves the right to stand up for our future."

She said students will fight provincial changes to education. The letter has been posted on Instagram and she is urging people to repost it to show support.

The Mayfield Magnetics vocal group was a finalist in CBC Music's Canadian Music Class Challenge in 2018. The group won the challenge in 2016.

In the challenge, which CBC Music calls "a salute to music education in this country," thousands of students from music classes across Canada sign up to learn and perform their best version of a Canadian song on every instrument possible.

Decision 'not easy to make,' principal says 

Kardash, the school's principal, said the administration cut the class after taking a "long, hard look" at its courses. The school will have 106 teachers next year, down from 113 this year.

Once the school identified those classes, staff worked to ensure there were enough required courses that students need to graduate, and to progress to college, university and the workforce.

"At this point in time, this is our situation," he said Monday. "We have to be able to ensure that all the kids have a pathway to graduate."

Kardash said he's also upset about the loss, and feels "conflicted."

"This is a wonderful opportunity to explore and pursue talents and to hone them so that students can reach their potential. To have that taken away, it's not an easy decision to make."

Class was originally extracurricular, board says

According to Carla Pereira, spokesperson for the Peel District School Board, the class was originally an extracurricular activity over lunch hour that became a class. She said it could become an extracurricular activity again.

"Should Mayfield be able to offer the affected courses again in the future, they would absolutely do so, as the school recognizes the tremendous benefit for students," she said in a statement on Monday.

With files from Metro Morning

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