Hundreds of students could be seen throughout the city and county today as they walked out of school and voiced their concerns about the changes and cuts to education at the provincial level.
Approximately 650 secondary school students walked out of school and either walked, drove, or took public transit to Kingston’s downtown core, where they gathered in front of City Hall in Confederation Park on Thursday, Apr. 4, 2019. Armed with signs and echoing chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” and “What do we want? Education! When do we want it? Now!” and “Vote him out!” (the latter referring to Premier Doug Ford), the students passed around megaphones voicing their own concerns – increased class sizes, mandatory online classes, cuts to teaching positions, cuts to autism program funding, and cuts to arts programming all among them.
The students downtown were not alone, however, as students from secondary schools outside city limits, such as Ernestown Secondary School and Sydenham High School, also walked out of class and demonstrated with signs along the roadside. Elementary school students at Welborne Avenue Public School also walked out of class to protest the cuts and changes.
Although MP Mark Gerretsen was unable to attend, Jimmy Hassan attended on behalf of Gerretsen’s office and read a statement. MPP Ian Arthur joined the students in Confederation Park, addressing the crowd and encouraging the students to share their views about the changes being put in place by the Ford government.
“So many of the challenges that we are facing will fall onto the shoulders of our youth. After 40 years of inaction in climate change the movement is being led by a Swedish high school student and a former server now congresswoman from the Bronx,” said Arthur.
“It is youth who led the walkout over the health curriculum changes, it is youth who are today taking action against education cuts. We desperately need this leadership. I am so inspired by these actions, they give me energy to keep fighting for these very students.”
And while some parents voiced concern on social media about receiving messages from the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) they felt discouraged students from participating in the walkout, The LDSB Board of Trustees sent a statement to Minister of Education Lisa Thompson to also voice concern about the changes being put in place by the Government of Ontario.
“A strong public education system plays a significant role in ensuring we are best preparing our students to embrace a changing world as lifelong learners and informed, responsible citizens. Fiscal responsibility cannot trump our duty to provide students with an effective and engaging educational experience that best prepares them for the future,” said Chair Suzanne Ruttan in the statement.
“We ask that you continue to consult and work collaboratively with OPSBA, school board staff, and union and federation partners to ensure equitable and sustainable funding to support the achievement and well-being of all students.”
The full statement can be read here.
Above images by Lucas Mulder.