The Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) is reacting with cautious optimism to a pause in classroom size changes which have already had an impact on course offerings.

The province announced Aug. 22 it would provide funding to keep classroom size averages largely intact for this year. For high school, the average classroom size will rise from 22 to 22.5 students, while Grades 4 to 8 will go from 23 to 24 students, on average. But the province still plans to reduce funding to push the high school class average to 28 students over the next four years.

TLDSB director of education Larry Hope said analysis is still needed to determine how the Aug. 22 announcement will affect local schools.

“I would like to be cautiously optimistic about it. We are analyzing the details as they become available to us,” Hope said.

The province aims to implement the changes through teacher retirements and voluntary leaves as opposed to layoffs. To that end, it is providing $1.6 billion in teacher job protection for school boards from 2019-2023.

“I have made it clear that I was intent on listening to, and working with, our education sector partners,” said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce in a press release. “Our mission remains to land a deal in good faith, that puts our students first.”

But the cuts have already impacted TLDSB, Hope said. The district has approximately 24 fewer teachers than last year from not rehiring retiring staff. That means about 100 fewer courses offered across the division.

“We’ve managed this through attrition,” Hope said. “It definitely means we will have fewer teachers in our secondary schools at this point. Now, that could change depending on what the announcement today (Aug. 22) translates to.”

Minor changes to sex-ed curriculum

The province also unveiled its changes to the sex-ed curriculum Aug. 21.

The curriculum is largely similar to one instituted by the previous government in 2015. Gender identity discussion will be taught in Grade 8, pushed back from Grade 6. Sexual orientation will be taught in Grade 5, one year sooner than before. Discussions have also been added on vaping and concussions, with expanded lessons on consent and cannabis use.

“Fundamentally, important topics are covered,” Hope said. “Things that parents have advocated for are still being covered. Our teachers will use the curriculum as it’s presented to us.”

Hope added that the school district trusts its educators and that gradebased curriculums do not mean topics from other grades never come up.

“We know we are in changing times and our students access to information and access to knowledge is changing dramatically,” Hope said. “Our teachers are experts, to respond to that.”

The new curriculum is expected to be in place this year. Parents can also opt their children out of certain content blocks, a practice which was already in place in the TLDSB.

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