Madawaska Valley District High School (MVDHS) participated in the province-wide Students Say No walkout on Thursday April 4. At 1 p.m. more than fifty students marched from MVDHS up John Street and along Stafford Street into the centre of Barry’s Bay where they assembled at Zurakowski Park.
The Current spoke with student representative Sean McCloskey prior to the demonstration. He is on the Madawaska Valley District High School (MVDHS) Student Activities Council (SAC) and is Renfrew County District School Board’s student trustee. McCloskey is also OSTA AECO’s (Ontario Student Trustees Association) public board council vice-president.
McCloskey said that students across Ontario had planned the walkout to protest against the recent education announcements made last month by Education Minister Lisa Thompson and her education team. He said the student organizers did not expect everybody to come out, but if students are upset over the changes then they encouraged participation. McCloskey said that the school and school board had nothing to do with the walkout but he did not expect they would stand in the way of a peaceful protest by students. He said his role was to ensure his peers understood the changes that will face Ontario students, teachers and school boards. He said he hopes, “Everybody leaves a little bit more enlightened, with the proper information.” He said it was important that students were “getting involved, standing up even when it is a small community.”
McCloskey shared the text of his speech at Zurakowski Park with The Current. In it, he confirmed that the students were not just “skipping” their last class but wanted to protest by means of a 100 percent student-run, student-organized demonstration. He discussed four major changes that concerned the students:
- Increase in class sizes
- Mandatory e-learning credits
- Cellphone ban
- Overall cuts to the whole system
He said the class size increase will negatively affect northern and rural communities like Madawaska Valley because MVDHS barely runs any elective courses other than sciences and maths. He gave an example where a student could be in a class of 38 students for a 3U, 3C, 4U, 4C course; in other words, four curricula being taught by the same teacher at the same time.
McCloskey said while eLearning can work well for some students, we do not have the technology in place to make it work.
He described the cellphone ban as being “literally what’s already happening” and said the government is “basically saying that [our teachers and administration teams] don’t know how to handle cellphone-related incidents.”
He said the overall cuts of nearly a billion dollars could result in the loss of approximately 2000 elementary teaching jobs and an estimated 6000 high school teaching jobs.
Photo: students marching by Julia Beggs