/Highlands Opera proud of  10 years 

Highlands Opera proud of  10 years 

By Sue Tiffin
precisely 1:15 p.m. on April 4, the front doors of Haliburton Highlands
Secondary School opened and more than 50 students walked out of class
to protest changes being made to the province’s education system by the
PC government that include proposed increased class sizes, mandatory
e-learning modules, changes to OSAP including the free tuition currently
offered to low-income families, a classroom cellphone ban and potential
teacher job cuts.
province-wide walkout, which was intended to last until 2:15 p.m. that
day, saw thousands of students participating across Ontario in the
student-led movement. Locally, the walkout was organized by Grade 12
HHSS student and TLDSB student representative Chloe Samson, who said she
was inspired by a fellow G7 rep at LCVI in Lindsay who was organizing
that school’s walkout. Samson created an Instagram page for the local
walkout, and registered the school in the provincial walkout online
I was really hoping to get a lot of students,” said Samson as the
walkout began and the crowd of students gathered by the side of the road
in front of the train located on the school property. “Some students
who are coming here were saying, ‘oh, it’s not going to make a
difference.’ So I’m trying to tell them … it’s not so much [about]
making a difference right now, it’s having a voice and showing that we
all believe in something.”
Samson said
the cuts to education that might see teachers lose their jobs, and the
increase in class sizes, were worrisome, as well as potential losses to
the educational assistant team, which help her peers access education. 
looking at maybe, who knows, it could be up to seven teachers cut from
the school,” she said. “It’s just a random number. But if teachers are
cut, it’s going to affect so many students, learning styles, and upping
the amount of students in a classroom, it doesn’t seem fitting for any
school, especially a smaller school. I think it’s going to really affect
us negatively, especially with a lot of students with learning
disabilities, and we know we have low scores with EQAO, so I think we
need more teachers, not less.”
an interview with the Times prior to the walkout, fifth year HHSS
student Madeline Hopkins said students had discussed the policy changes
in leadership class.
spoke about it in class, just students without teachers, and we
discussed how in order for us to start some type of change, it has to
start at the roots of who it is affecting, the students and the
parents,” said Hopkins. “And so yes, school boards and teachers, they
can say what they want to say, but it’s also just as important, equally
important, to have the students and the parents speaking and
demonstrating how they feel.”
and Hopkins said in their experience, an increase in class size would
be detrimental, with Hopkins noting her Grade 10 English class had 35
students in it, “and it was awful.”
the same, whether or not I was an A student or a D student, I still
have tons of questions that I want answered,” she said. “In a class of
35, there’s a huge spectrum of the abilities of the students that are in
that class, and different learning styles.”
said Minister of Education Lisa Thompson’s statement about larger
classrooms leading to more resilient students was not fair.
is her going around it, honestly, because a lot of students, for me
personally, I am not an A student,” she said. “And I have a different
learning style, I need to speak to the teacher to fully comprehend
things because when I am just given the information, like the teacher
does when they’re teaching, that’s not enough for me, I need more. And
there are plenty of students who have a similar learning style to me,
[larger class sizes are] just putting them all at a disadvantage when
they could be learning better.”
Hopkins said the physical space in the classrooms suggests they are not intended to hold so many students.
science labs, they’re not big enough to hold classes that are that
big,” she said. “That’s obviously not as relevant as other issues that
we’re facing, but it’s just going to be a hard shift.”
HHSS students also said the four mandatory online classes proposed by
the government were not suited to the Haliburton community, and would be
difficult for some students without access to computers, high-speed
internet, or transportation to get to and from the library, to
with online courses, there’s a huge disconnect between the teacher and
the student,” said Hopkins. “Most of us have taken at least one online
course, and it’s not ideal. You can’t have one-on-one’s with the
teacher. Online courses are tailored for one specific type of learning,
pretty much, so if you need to be able to speak with the teacher, need
other resources, it’s very hard to get them.”
Prior to the change, the students said it was difficult to get approval for online courses.
that was for a reason,” said Grade 12 HHSS student Josie Quigley. “It’s
because online courses aren’t ideal for most students, they don’t work
for a lot of students. It requires an insane amount of organization and
time management that I don’t think most Grade 9s have developed yet.”
students also worried out loud about the potential to lose expertise
with teacher cuts, and said they think the teacher-student ratio is
“right on the brink.”
April 4 HHSS walkout was peaceful, with students working to make the
most impact with their signs on passing vehicles. Some signs read, “you
can’t spell TEAM without an EA,” in a nod to educational assistants, one
read, “education is an investment, not a cost,” one read, “strong
education equals strong economy,” and one suggested there were jobs
available at the racetrack in a nod to the Ford government’s
announcement to invest $10 million per year in Ontario’s horse racing
of the walkout posted to the Echo’s Facebook page resulted in comments
that praised the students for taking a stand and some that also accused
the students of being coerced into the walkout by their teachers, none
who were at the scene of the protest last Thursday.
comment said, “I spoke to tons of students. Most were unaware of the
politics, just liked the idea of not being in class for a little while,
don’t leverage them for leftist agenda.”
comment read in part, “Students have a right to make a statement about
the state of education in the province of Ontario and [Premier] Doug
Ford needs to be stopped. All great change has been brought about
through public action.”
to the walkout, responding to adults criticizing the students, Samson
said: “Honestly, everyone’s free to their own opinion and I respect
everyone for saying what they believe in, but I think that is completely
wrong. We are here to make noise to show that we have a voice and to
just represent what we believe in, and our rights. It’s OK for them to
say they don’t believe in this, and it’s OK for us to do what we want to
do, because we believe we are doing something that’s correct, and
right, and hopefully it’s going to send a proper message.”
Minister of Education Lisa Thompson issued a statement on April 4 at 5:20 p.m., following the walkout. 
is a disappointing day for Ontario’s parents and students,” reads the
statement. “On a day when we reached out to begin good-faith
consultations with Ontario’s teachers, we instead are seeing Ontario
teachers’ unions condoning a student walkout at schools across the
province. We know teachers’ unions organized student walkouts under the
previous government. I’m concerned we may be seeing the same thing now
as teachers’ unions are clearly not discouraging this stunt.”
said, “over half of Ontario’s sixth grade students are failing to meet
an acceptable standard on their math tests,” and said teachers’ unions
“have offered no solution to the math crisis.” She said teachers were
enabling students to skip classes rather than focusing on math.
even when students are in class, too many teachers are choosing to use
students as a captive audience for their union’s political agenda.”
said the provincial government is renewing Ontario’s curriculum to
ensure students have math, science and financial literacy skills, and
had passed legislation that will require teachers to complete a math
content knowledge test. 
the meantime, I want to remind parents that, should they be concerned
about their child’s safety because of any union support of the walkout,
they always have the option to contact the Ontario College of Teachers,
which is the regulatory body responsible for teacher misconduct.”  
want everyone in Ontario to know that we are prepared to take action to
give parents peace of mind that no one will ever use our children as a
captive audience or bargaining chip as part of their union’s political
Samson said Thompson’s statement was “upsetting and unsettling.”
are not using us for their own political agenda,” she wrote to the
Times following the walkout. “They are supporting and looking out for
their students that they know more personally than say the Minister of
Education knows each student. [The provincial government has] a warped
agenda to get students back to the levels and scores they perhaps once
were by going back to the old way of teaching but they do not realize
that today is a new age and things are evolving. Nothing is staying the
same and things need to advance, not go back … Everybody is entitled
to their own opinion but I do not support hers.”
vice-principal David Waito said prior to the event, the school would
encourage students to consider alternatives to the walkout, such as
writing to their local MPP or the Minister of Education. He said
students were not encouraged to leave class, but acknowledged their
right to peacefully protest. All students who participated in the
walkout were marked absent from class. 
thanked the students for “gathering and leaving the classes
respectfully and returning after the walkout finished respectfully, but
also protesting with all their hearts.”