York board says bigger class sizes forced cancellation of 123 high school courses

York school board officials say that 123 courses set to be offered in the 2019-2020 school year have been cancelled.

Cancelled courses vary from school to school, but include construction, accounting and arts classes

The provincial government's decision to increase class sizes for Grades 4 through 12, with the biggest increases in high schools, sparked a series of protests at Queen's Park. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

High school students in York Region will have fewer course options for the upcoming school year due to bigger class sizes and provincial funding cuts, according to the public school board.

In a joint letter to parents posted online this week, York Region District School Board chair Corrie McBain and director of education Louise Sirisko said 159 courses across 33 secondary schools have been impacted.

Of those courses, 123 have been cancelled while 36 will have fewer classes. 

Cancelled courses vary from school to school. 

At Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School, for example, courses such as financial accounting principles, introductory kinesiology, and hospitality and tourism will no longer be offered. There will also be fewer classes in subjects like English, math and history. 

"We recognize that these reductions will have implications for students and families, and we have been working with staff members to minimize the effects on our students," McBain and Sirisko said. 

"Schools are currently working with students to find alternative options to ensure they can continue in their chosen pathways."

A full list of affected courses can be found here

Teaching positions to be lost through attrition

The York board (YRDSB) expects to lose more than 90 teaching positions this year through the process of attrition, the pair added, though no high school teachers will be laid off. The YRDSB has 41,000 students and an annual budget of some $1.5 billion. 

Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson revealed in March that the average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted to 28, up from the current average of 22. The move left school boards across the province scrambling to address budget shortfalls resulting from the change.

While overall funding to the YRDSB is set to increase by $1.7 million for the 2019-2020 school year, the board warned in April that bigger class size requirements will eventually result in a loss of about 300 teaching positions over the next four years and a considerable reduction in many elective courses.

"We want to assure you that our schools have been doing their best to limit these numbers. In some cases, this may mean combining courses or increasing class sizes where possible within our existing collective agreements," McBain and Sirisko said in Wednesday's letter.

Premier Doug Ford and his government have consistently disputed figures put forth by various school boards for potential losses in teaching positions and courses. Last month, Ford said school boards in the province are "out of control," while Thompson has accused school boards of fear mongering about job losses.