Hundreds of students from Elmira District Secondary School staged a walkout of classrooms Thursday in protest of the Ford government’s cuts to education. Taking to the streets at 1:15 p.m., an hour before the end of school, the EDSS students joined several hundred other such protests taking place across Ontario in opposition to the changes that will see average classroom sizes in the province increased, among other measures aimed at controlling costs.
Starting outside the school, the EDSS students soon marched up Arthur Street for impromptu demonstrations outside the office of Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris.
“We say no!” chanted the large crowd as they made an their way in an orderly manner up the street to the constituency office.
Premier Doug Ford dismissed the protests as manipulation by the teachers’ unions, and instead emphasized the government’s focus on improving math scores in the province, as well as supporting science and skilled-trades education.
“Let’s start focusing on the students and stop using the students as a bunch of pawns, because that’s what the union bosses are doing right now,” said Ford, in response to a question at Queen’s Park on Thursday. “It’s absolutely shameful that they’re using our students as a bunch of pawns.”
Students say the austerity measures would negatively impact their education and futures, and wanted to voice their concerns to provincial lawmakers.
“I would just say: find another way,” said Garret Tracey, a fifth-year student participating in the EDSS protest. “I know the biggest reason a lot of these cuts are being made is because Ontario is in a debt, and I will concede that debt does need to be paid off. But there’s got to be another way than at the expense of our students’ future.”