Thousands of London students walk out of class over education changes

Hundreds of students gathered on the steps of City Hall Thursday afternoon to rally against education changes from the Ontario government. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

A province-wide walkout reverberated in London as hundreds gathered on the front steps of city hall to protest education changes from the Ontario government.

Students from more than 700 high schools in Ontario took part in Thursday’s demonstration.

The walkouts come after the Progressive Conservatives announced plans to increase class sizes, make students take more online courses and implement a revamped sex-ed curriculum.

READ MORE: Ontario announces revamped sex-ed curriculum, increase in class sizes for high school

Catholic Central High School (CCH) student Emma Cervinka helped organize the walkout at her school.

She said she jumped on board as soon as she heard of the province-wide initiative to protest education changes.

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“I always wanted to participate in a protest and see students my age make a difference,” Cervinka said, adding that she was surprised by the large turnout on Thursday.

READ MORE: Boards tell Ontario education minister larger class sizes could mean cuts to arts, trades classes

A number of school boards have warned that plans to increase class sizes will eliminate teaching positions and lead to fewer elective courses in areas such as the arts and skilled trades.

Grade 12 CCH student Claire Dulong, who also helped organize the school’s walkout, said this concern hits close to home.

“I’m in the vocal program here, I was in the string program for two years and I was in the environmental leadership program as well,” Dulong said.

“The fact that these programs cannot be experienced by some kids in years to come is absolutely devastating.”

Claire Dulong (right) and Emma Cervinka (second from left) stand with supporters in Kennedy Field at Catholic Central High School for a walkout over education changes. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

During question period at the legislature on Thursday, Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the provincial government will not be giving in to what she referred to as “union stunts.”

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“In the past… union bosses have organized walkouts against the previous Liberal government,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that the Progressive Conservatives will not be teaching based on “ideology or hidden agendas,” but rather focusing on information gathered from consultations in fall 2018.

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