London students walk out as part of province-wide education protest

High school students from London and St. Thomas took part in a province-wide protest against education changes in Ontario.

The hour-long rally saw students leave their classrooms at 1:15 p.m. Hundreds of thousands of students were expected to participate across Ontario.

Hundreds left London's A.B. Lucas High School at the appointed time in opposition to the Ford government's funding cuts.

Student Claire Barns says, "A big thing that I think is affecting our student education is actually the four mandatory online classes a year. I don't think Doug Ford actually realizes that not all students have access to a computer all the time and therefore it's going to be a big struggle for them to complete the four necessary courses."

Other students raised issues like changes to OSAP funding, autism programs and class sizes.

Student Seoyoon Kim says, "So Doug Ford said that the class sizes are going to be increased and that actually has a lot of impact on students because students in smaller classes often tend to learn better because they're able to communicate with the teacher."

NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan was at the A.B. Lucas rally, and he echoes the students' concerns about the changes, saying Ontario already has the lowest per-student funding in Canada.

"We hear the premier saying that this is such a wonderful plan, but here we see that nobody accepts his empty words. People know that his cuts are going to hurt students and affect students and really change their future. These students are standing up for their rights as students and I think it’s fantastic.”

Both school boards and teachers unions are warning that the planned changes could mean thousands of teaching positions lost and fewer elective courses like arts and skilled trades being offered.

The Thames Valley District School Board issued a statement saying they were aware of the protest and, "expects all students to behave in a peaceful and respectful manner throughout the school day."

According to board policy, "students failing to attend classes will be recorded as absent, and parents and guardians will be notified as a part of normal school practices.”

The French public board, Conseil Scolaire Viamonde also said absences would be noted as normal, but that "without encouraging students, we are present on the property of the school to ensure their safety."

TVDSB Chair Arlene Morell also put out a statement Thursday regarding the education funding changes, saying the board is still working to understand the impact, including the proposed increases in class sizes.